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  • Writer's pictureDan Koh

"all i want"

while others had gods, saints, myths, i had art, literature, and music. they had jesus, mary, icarus, but i always had and have joni.

on the 52nd (!) anniversary of her seminal ‘blue’ (1971), and in light of her recent comeback to live performance, for which she learnt to walk for the third time in her life, i simply would like to give thanks for her and especially praise this record, which has meant the world to me since i was a teenager, hurting and dreaming, alone and in the company of artists.

it’s a distilled confession that cuts to the bone, a restless travelogue, and also just really catchy and heartfelt and true. she made it when she was travelling, after a breakup, feeling as exposed and transparent and disposable as “a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes”, and god does she let it bleed, so much more than all the dudes out there then. with her personalised tunings, a voice not yet ravaged by years of smoking, and a pen from which “you[s] pours out of me / in these lines from time to time”, she expressed a wealth, a world of suffering, heartache, wanderlust, love and hope. it has only gotten richer over time, and recently i found myself returning again and again to the opening number, “all i want”, and even tracking down its live demo, which is harsher, rawer, more bitter and unforgiving even amidst its missing words.

but she got past that, she filled in the blanks, and she gave us equanimity, a daylight-clear sense that one can be a butterfly, a “dark cocoon” “hidin’ behind bottles in dark cafes”, but also self-confront, or wish/will, that it’s “only a phase”. and what a multivaried journey she’s been on, before and after, wings after wings after wings!

replaying a record is like revisiting a place: you really witness how you’ve changed while it’s stayed the same. i may have changed but ‘blue’ is forever a balm. again, as i wear out this record’s grooves, skate down her “river so long”, i give thanks that she exists, in harsh reality, not yearning dreams, that she dared to be and share, that she sang and wrote and is.

𝐵𝑙𝑢𝑒 𝑠𝑜𝑛𝑔𝑠 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑘𝑒 𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑡𝑜𝑜𝑠

𝑌𝑜𝑢 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤 𝐼'𝑣𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑡𝑜 𝑠𝑒𝑎 𝑏𝑒𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑒

𝐶𝑟𝑜𝑤𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑎𝑛𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑟 𝑚𝑒

𝑂𝑟 𝑙𝑒𝑡 𝑚𝑒 𝑠𝑎𝑖𝑙 𝑎𝑤𝑎𝑦

𝐵𝑙𝑢𝑒, 𝐼 𝑙𝑜𝑣𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢


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