Blue songs are like tattoos
You know I've been to sea before
Crown and anchor me
Or let me sail away
Hey Blue, here is a song for you
From the song "Blue"
Logged in the far recesses of my mind there was a connection between David Blue
and Blue the song, but I could not recall who planted it there. Then looking
through old cuttings I found a copy of the Sunday Times magazine from 1983 with
an article on Joni. Here is an extract by the author Michael Watts:
The following was submitted by Mike Quinn
"We met in the Sunset Boulevard office of her manager Elliot Roberts, a droll
Bronx humorist who, after consenting to an interview, shouted to his
secretary,'Start the clock, Mary!'. The choice of day was ironic, for that very
morning there had been a funeral service for an old folksinger friend, David
Blue, who is enshrined in her mythology as the inspiration for her album Blue.
Blue's real name was Cohen, and his death was not romantic: from a heart
attack, at 41, while jogging. Roberts explained, with rising incredulity, that
his ashes were to be laid to rest in Laurel Canyon. At this Mitchell clapped
her hands, suddenly gripped by an idea. They would put the ashes in a friend's
yard and plant a bush there.
'Jooan!' Roberts wailed. 'Fertiliser! Is that what he ended up being? Mulch?'
'I wouldn't mind being fertiliser for a rosebush or somethin'', she protested;
and added, with a hint of reproof, 'bear that in mind, Elliot.' "
Now I remember reading that article 17 years ago and part of it stuck in my
mind. But wait, tucked away further on in the same article is the following:
"Journalism often misrepresented her, she said. There were even men who
thought, quite wrongly, that she had written about them. She promptly scotched
the legend that 'Blue' had been about David Blue. And other torch bearers
turned out to be mere spear-carriers"
So perhaps there is the truth. Certainly the article gave more emphasis to the
legend than her denial of it. And it was the myth I vaguely remembered.
The following was submitted by Chris Garthwaite
To me, "Blue" is simply, honestly, and directly about the color
blue and Joni's artistic relationship to it at that period of her life,
as it is drawn from the motive Earth, in this case from ink or water and
the sea, and as it signifies the creative emotional state of loving.
That is, the song's both about the color and our relationship to
ourselves and others, as directly expressible in how one feels about the
color blue. Is it possible that Joni fell in love with blue, or into
blue with love? Could Joni be, in her mind and ours, a brush at times?
Looked at from that perspective, one sees Joni freshly *as a
painter*, just as she has so many times articulated herself, and wanted
herself to be considered by us. She *feels* this color, I think, as next
to black, and is strongly attracted to it but perhaps somewhat dauntedly
so, so that she uses it sparingly. That is to say, she *loves* her box
of paints and has many special feelings and associations for each color
and how each contributes to blends, washes, borders (that is the parts
of paintings) but moreover depiction and portraiture especially (and
thus to a painting as a whole). She wants the song to be *seen* as much
as it is heard -- so that it can be all the more strongly *felt* ... and
thus she wants for herself to be taken as truly 'painting with words and
music'. So she sings to a color the feelings she has for that color! And
her feelings are of a profound love and respect.
In just this sense, "Turbulent Indigo" takes on fresh meaning also,
as if described by a naïf but simultaneously by a Master/Matrix of color
since blue/indigo is always so powerful to her and conveys psychological
states of opening to pain and love -- and expression of deep inner
reflections --- as if one is in a cave with a pool and high above is an
unexpected hole through which one can see the midnight sky. In the pool
is a star or stars, like ideas just being born -- and by meditating on
the pool, one finds their peace, and star of guidance (though new paths
can be painful). And perhaps Joni understands herself and people,
especially artists, in this way too -- she wants to know them and their
thoughts when they 'get down to the hum and Om' of creating and are
centered, deliberate, and yet *moving* creatively, with Love for their
creations, paintings and/or songs. And so she may sing to both David
Blue and Vincent as if to stars ... or to them as mysterious midnights
that hold the starpoints of contemplation. And her singing is a moving,
like the great seas, themselves being like the great turning sky. Thus,
might not Creating Joni become hue(s), flowing from the brush?
That *moving* is emotional and comes to our evolution from the sea
and water -- which are sources of inspiration Joni has drawn from
strongly at other times -- "For The Roses" comes to mind quickly does it
not? I think Joni loves her affinity for the sea and the waves at Malibu
or her swimming spot by her BC home. I think she feels deeply connected
to the sea as a human and especially as a woman, a creative woman, and
as a creative force in her own right: I think she sighs in recognition
of that inner emotional source and her love for it. Midnight blue can
set off subjects with import, sky blue can contain many objects,
viridian blue-green connotes life ... "blue" thus has its own moods that
it may move through as it joins other color-meanings ... just as we have
pangs in love and/or warmth and/or fulfillment as we join in love. Joni
herself is like a freshwater river of a voice pouring into the saline
sea of her song's potential and meanings: there are many blues.
While the song "Blue" has lyrics which don't directly use the sea
as a theme as I may seem to imply above, what I mean is that the
*feeling* of the song is of a rocking and then freely-sailing voice and
portent to me, much like "The Dawntreader" *feels* like a sea-song,
doesn't it? And yet paintings are stillnesses, but songs have true
movement ... so I think Joni is using the *movement through time* of
song in these compositions to get at the blueness=fluidity of her
emotional changes, and perhaps she's getting at givingness of love -- I
think this song is *to* other artists in a way, to David Blues yes, but
I think she intends for it to be to the deep blue unfathomable
creativity and love (and loss) of all humans and all life. And when she
wants to convey those states or awarenesses in a painting, she may use
blue ... to approach them within herself.
So, to me, "Blue" is about a person being a person and a color
being a color because and as *Movement* and *Emotion* are essential to
who we are, what we can do and give, and how we love, both others ...
and ourselves as well ... when we are deep, fluid, clear, yet reflective
of the sky and stars .. when we are Blue. And, from Joni, perhaps "Blue"
is about a person simply being and/or loving a color? That is, being the
The following was submitted by Richard Flynn:
Eric Andersen's anecdote about Joni and David Blue is reprinted on the David Blue web site:
"Joni Mitchell had taken care of David for years. She told me once that she was going over her books, and there were more checks made out to David than there were to the phone company. Once he called her because he was desperate for money, he was being thrown out of his apartment. So she got the money to him. The next day, just by chance, she runs into David on the street in the Village and he's standing there with two dozen roses. He had taken the money and bought the roses for his new girlfriend. Joni understandably flipped out and David typically remarked back to her, "Come on, Joni, why do you have to be such a bitch?"
print source: Woliver, Robbie. Hoot: A 25-Year History of the Greenwich Village Music Scene. New York: St. Martins, 1986. p.121.
Introducing Cactus Tree at her October 12, 1967 show at Philadelphia's Second Fret, Joni tells the following story:
Three nights ago I went to a movie in New York City a Bob Dylan movie, the new Bob Dylan and Joan Baez live feature movie. And I'd never seen Dylan perform, you see, so I'd wondered why David Blue and Eric Andersen, although they were supposed to be imitators of Dylan, neither one of them were alike. And I found out that Eric is Dylan's sense of humor and David Blue is his grouchiness. At least that is in my humble opinion. But, uh,I'm about to be influenced by Mr. Dylan, you see. I'm, uh, late to this, and everybody who started out as songwriters at this point has been influenced by Mr. Dylan. Well to this point I don't think I have. At least I haven't noticed. . . .
David Blue's 1975 Asylum record Com'n Back for More was produced and arranged by John Guerin and features Joni on vocals on Leonard Cohen's Lover, Lover, Lover. Bob Dylan plays harmonica on it, too.
David Blue 1941-1982 Web Site
| More information on "Blue"