Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Love Looks Like In Words

In 1997 the incredible musician David Crosby sat down with Wally Breese, a Joni Mitchell archivist. Breese conducted a lengthy interview focusing mostly on Crosby’s discovery of Joni Mitchell, and his subsequent relationship with her.

I don’t know if I’ve ever read an interview where one person’s affection for another speaks so clearly.

I think this is what love looks like in words.

I’m going to excerpt just David Crosby’s voice here and merge many of his responses into a monologue. But the complete interview is available at in the article section here: A Conversation with David Crosby

Here is David Crosby speaking about Joni Mitchell:

I went looking for a sailboat to live on. I wanted to do something else. Find another way to be. I was pretty disillusioned. I walked into a coffee house and was just completely smitten. She was standing there singing all those songs ... "Michael from Mountains," "Both Sides Now," and I was just floored. I couldn't believe that there was anybody that good. And I also fell ... I loved her ... I was extremely fascinated with the quality of the music and the quality of the girl. She was such an unusual, passionate and powerful woman. I was fascinated by her tunings because I had started working in tunings, and I was writing things like "Guinevere." So things like that made me very, very attracted to her. ... We used to play songs to each other all the time. But I think she just outgrew me. ... In a hundred years when they look back and say, "Who was the best?" - it's going to be her. ... She's a better poet than Dylan and without question a far better musician. ... Joni is not a person that you stay in a relationship with. It always goes awry, no matter who you are. It's an inevitable thing. ... We had some wonderful times together early on, when she went sailing with me. ... You have to understand ... I still love her. She's the best, and if you quote anything from me, say that I said she was the best and I've always said that. ... I asked Joni if she would produce or write a song for my album "Thousand Roads" and she said "Oh ... let's write one together." So I sent her a set of lyrics that I thought she would like, and she did, oddly enough, and she pretty much took it from there. [ "Yvette In English" ] I changed the song again when she sang it back to me, in the way that I did it. I guess she changed it some in the way she did it, too. The two versions are quite different. ... I'm very grateful to her for doing this with me. It was kind of her. ... If you mention it, tell her that I'm very grateful to her for doing that.

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Here are the lyrics to “Yvette In English”
and Joni Mitchell singing the song:

He met her in a French cafe
She slipped in sideways like a cat
Sidelong glances
What a wary little stray!
She sticks in his mind like that
Saying, "Avez-vous un allumette?"
With her lips wrapped around a cigarette
Yvette in English saying,
"Please have this
Little bit of instant bliss."

He's fumbling with her foreign tongue;
Reaching for words and drawing blanks
A loud mouth is stricken deaf and dumb
In a bistro on the left bank
"If I were a painter," Picasso said,
"I'd paint this girl from toe to head!"
Yvette in English saying,
"Please have this
Little bit of instant bliss."

Burgundy nocturne tips and spills
They trot along nicely in the spreading stain
New chills, new thrills
For the old uphill battle
How did he wind up here again?
Walking and talking
Touched and scared
Uninsulated wires left bare
Yvette in English going,
"Please have this
Little bit of instant bliss."

What blew her like a leaf his way?
Up in the air and down to Earth
First she flusters
Then she frays
So quick to question her own worth
Her cigarette burns her fingertips
As it falls like fireworks she curses it
Then sweetly in English she says,
"Please have this,
Little bit of instant bliss."

He sees her turn and walk away
Skittering like a cat on stone--
Her high heels clicking--
What a wary little stray!
She leaves him by the Seine alone
With the black water and the amber lights
And the bony bridge between left and right
Yvette in English saying,
"Please have this
Little bit of instant bliss."

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