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Thread started 03/25/20 6:22am

SanMartin

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Joni Mitchell's Influence on Prince (article)

Joni Mitchell and Prince are two of the world's greatest recording artists. It goes without saying that I love Prince's music. And thanks in part to Prince, and in part to my mum, I've also been a fan of Joni's since I was a teenager.


Logically enough, I've devoted a quite a lot of thought to how Joni influenced Prince, but unlike some of his other influences, this one isn't quite so immediately clear when you listen to them. To cut a long story short, I've written an article about it, which I wanted to share here because the Org is the kind of place where people might be interested in it.


I've tried to go beyond the most obvious, superficial connections between the two, although this of course has left me more open to erroneous interpretation, or perhaps 'debatable' is the word. It's very subjective, in any case. See what you think. Here's the link: https://thegoldendog.net/...on-prince/


[I should probably explain my shockingly bad drawings in advance: this is a blog I've started with an old schoolfriend, and we both used to do these types of doodles in class. We thought it'd be fun to decorate the website with them, thus taking full advantage of our artistic 'skills']


Comments are welcome!

[Edited 3/25/20 6:25am]

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Reply #1 posted 03/26/20 8:41am

bsprout

Very nice! I enjoyed your article.

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Reply #2 posted 03/26/20 4:10pm

RJOrion

great article...im a big fan of Joni Mitchell and i always felt like songs like "Scarlett Conquering", "The Boho Dance", and "Help Me" were songs that i could hear the connection of their musical spirits... its not loud and obvious but its there...and i can definitely hear her influence on Sometimes It Snows In April... The Hissing Of Summer Lawns is IMO the greatest album ever made by a female solo artist... no disrespect to Rhythm Nation 1814, or Diana Ross' lp produced by Chic...i take alot of shit for saying that to people, but no other album invokes so many emotions in me so easily...and i have to listen to it headphones or alone, because my wife hates that album...she calls it "suicide music"...bless her heart
[Edited 3/26/20 16:12pm]
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Reply #3 posted 03/28/20 9:12am

SanMartin

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bsprout said:

Very nice! I enjoyed your article.

Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!

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Reply #4 posted 03/28/20 9:31am

SanMartin

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RJOrion said:

great article...im a big fan of Joni Mitchell and i always felt like songs like "Scarlett Conquering", "The Boho Dance", and "Help Me" were songs that i could hear the connection of their musical spirits... its not loud and obvious but its there...and i can definitely hear her influence on Sometimes It Snows In April... The Hissing Of Summer Lawns is IMO the greatest album ever made by a female solo artist... no disrespect to Rhythm Nation 1814, or Diana Ross' lp produced by Chic...i take alot of shit for saying that to people, but no other album invokes so many emotions in me so easily...and i have to listen to it headphones or alone, because my wife hates that album...she calls it "suicide music"...bless her heart [Edited 3/26/20 16:12pm]

Thanks for the comment. I can empathise with you over your clash with your wife because my girlfriend can't stand Prince's voice. Specifically, she doesn't like the falsetto and the screams, which I can understand. Like, I don't agree, but I can understand because there are other singers whose voices grate on me in the same way.


It's interesting. The songs you've picked up aren't ones that I'd noticed as having a 'Princely spirit' to them. I'm not saying you're wrong, of course. It's all very subjective.

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Reply #5 posted 03/29/20 6:19am

IwonderMe

On Condition of the heart there is some inspiritation taken by The Romantic Warrior-Instrumental by Return to Forever.

I wonder if Joni Mitchell likes/liked that album (Romantic Warrior), too.

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Reply #6 posted 03/29/20 8:20am

Tokyo

Really enjoyed your article, thanks for sharing. The Hissing of Summer Lawns is one of my favourite albums...and I have to thank Prince for introducing me/us to it.
[Edited 3/29/20 8:22am]
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Reply #7 posted 03/29/20 8:53am

bsprout

I just happened to watch the 2004 clip of Prince and Wendy Melvoin performing ‘Reflection’ on the Tavis Smiley show. To me, I can see the Joni Mitchell inspo here, especially the part where he says they were comparing ‘whose Afro was the roundest’. It reminded me of the casual everyday observances in Joni Mitchell songs. It’s a beautiful acoustic performance.
Also, Prince’s rendition of ‘A Case of You’ is my favorite.
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Reply #8 posted 03/30/20 2:51pm

SirPussalot

SanMartin said:

Joni Mitchell and Prince are two of the world's greatest recording artists. It goes without saying that I love Prince's music. And thanks in part to Prince, and in part to my mum, I've also been a fan of Joni's since I was a teenager.


Logically enough, I've devoted a quite a lot of thought to how Joni influenced Prince, but unlike some of his other influences, this one isn't quite so immediately clear when you listen to them. To cut a long story short, I've written an article about it, which I wanted to share here because the Org is the kind of place where people might be interested in it.


I've tried to go beyond the most obvious, superficial connections between the two, although this of course has left me more open to erroneous interpretation, or perhaps 'debatable' is the word. It's very subjective, in any case. See what you think. Here's the link: https://thegoldendog.net/...on-prince/


[I should probably explain my shockingly bad drawings in advance: this is a blog I've started with an old schoolfriend, and we both used to do these types of doodles in class. We thought it'd be fun to decorate the website with them, thus taking full advantage of our artistic 'skills']


Comments are welcome!

[Edited 3/25/20 6:25am]

that was good...the most obvious ommission (forgive me if i missed it ) is When Were dancing close and slow .. a line from Coyote and a tune of subtle complexity. Her influence was seen by proxy when Wendy And Lisa got involved. Having Chaka on the record probably cemented his love further. (Dreamland)

She was at times a confessional lyricist , something that he didnt follow

As for emotional pump ... you can hear where hes coming from ..but it doesnt work.

Always felt he overplayed it in interviews ...he loved her no doubt ..but he had a habit of referencing things you wouldnt expect so as keep everybody guessing .. he was hardly gonna namecheck sly or jimi .. as she said 'hes a funny duck'

think ure punching a bit with mr mcgee ... but who knows

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Reply #9 posted 03/30/20 6:28pm

bonatoc

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Great article.

I think you're spot on about Joni's influence over Prince's "art over career" choice.

When you achieve the pop star status Prince achieves in 1985, you can
choose to make a career and build upon a well-defined audience.
Your expression may be impacted because keeping an audience faithful
often means staying familiar. But you can make a career out of it.

Instead, Prince takes the success of his best-selling album
(and it's fair to assume he knew shortly after its release that "Purple Rain"
would be selling for years, as any massive back-catalog album does)
and bets it all on creativity.

At his eighties apex, Prince doesn't ignore the present of Joni, Sly, Mavis, James and other
musical heroes of his. They are all considered legends, but also has-beens.
He knows this period will come for him eventually.
And he also knows about the Elvis comeback.
He knows about business.

Maybe Prince was perfectly conscious he had only a short window to go fully creative, free-jazz, exuberant.
His talents and output were such that Warner could only follow without even discussing at first.
Maybe at some point Prince thought this could become the norm.
Enough to recoup, cool if there's more, onto the next idea.


Lovesexy the album is a swan who sings about Prince facing the end of his Utopia Rainbow.
"Positivity" ends where the album started, on another plane of reality.
It's also the bleakest song of the whole album.
Can't really say if our guys win in the end.
Seems like we all have to get on some boat and sail for other shores.

Being involved in Batman was, aside the money, salutary for Prince.
He faced his inner Gemini, and maybe understood he couldn't be
an artist as uncompromising like Joni, that staying in the pop area had become a necessity
for his ego and equilibrium. Preserving Prince's career and status was more important
than Glam Slam, Thank U Madam.

Graffiti Bridge the movie is weak because it doesn't take the risk of going fully spiritual,
it's the Lovesexy Spirit betrayed for the glam of black leather and a well trimmed beard.
Ashamed of going to far, the movies backpedals to build upon Purple Rain and his characters.
It tries to be familiar. For the first time, Prince is afraid to take risks.
He rehashes songs from the past.

Even if the music is sometimes phenomenal,
Prince doesn't believe in his own utopia any more.
And in the end, the white Mercedes looks comfier than the motorcycle.
The images speak for themselves: Morris has the Good Life.

That's what makes the full-on hedonism of Diamonds and Pearls
a little unsettling to some of us, even if it's intersparsed with spirituality.
At least in Graffiti Bridge Prince is still in conflict, and,
using the whole movie set as his shrink's couch, he puts it all to film.

By Diamonds and Pearls, The Blue Angel as turned a Canary and
thanks to O'Connor is now worth a hundred millions, apparently.

Carnal fun and spirituality don't blend together like they used to,
they overlap, it's either one ("Thunder", "Walk Don't Walk",
"Money Don't Matter Tonight", "Live 4 Love") or the other ("Daddy Pop",
"Get Off", "Cream", "Strollin’") state of mind,
and Prince's songs get back to a more classic, familiar form.


When he releases the 1985 RS interview,
I think Prince (voluntarily or not) quotes Joni's definitive jump into "artistry über alles"
to give a hint of what he's ambitioning for himself; a boombastic, unrestrained, sixties-like creativity spree (soon to be put to a halt by WB executives and eighties show-business contingencies).

I'd like to think he followed that path up until Lovesexy.
Where could he go after that, if not back to earth?
We never really got "Prince The Utopian" back.

And I think it's testament to SKipper’s integrity
that he never tried to artificially revive him.
He found his limits (at the time).

Yes, it could have been a whole career made of the likes of "The Rainbow Children" or "N.E.W.S.".
Prince could have gone fully musician.
Boundless.

But in the end, he couldn't help he was also a Partyman.

Even with many bumps, I'm still amazed that somehow,
in the end, he managed to pack many careers in one,
still fierce and on the edge for the Uptown happy few,
a sophisticated and elegant pop singer for the masses,
and a concert legend revisiting his highlights
with constant reinvention across the years.


The Colors R brighter, the Bond is much tighter
No Child's a failure
Until the Blue Sailboat sails him away from his dreams
Don't Ever Lose, Don't Ever Lose
Don't Ever Lose Your Dreams
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Reply #10 posted 03/31/20 3:36am

fakir

Excellent article!

Dear Prince, he knew subtly how to borrow some from his idols (Sly, James, Joni, Santana or Miles)

For instance: "silence" in a song (Joni Mitchell & Miles Davis)

My favorite: sometimes it snows in April

The Ignorant asserts,The learned doubts,The wise thinks.

Aristotle
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Reply #11 posted 03/31/20 8:54pm

JoeyCococo

I have long thought Down To You had to be a fav of Prince's. There just seems to be a spirit if this song that I hear in Prince's music
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Reply #12 posted 04/02/20 7:23am

SanMartin

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IwonderMe said:

On Condition of the heart there is some inspiritation taken by The Romantic Warrior-Instrumental by Return to Forever.

I wonder if Joni Mitchell likes/liked that album (Romantic Warrior), too.


I haven't heard of Return to Forever, so I'll give them a listen. Thanks for the recommendation!

bsprout said:

I just happened to watch the 2004 clip of Prince and Wendy Melvoin performing ‘Reflection’ on the Tavis Smiley show. To me, I can see the Joni Mitchell inspo here, especially the part where he says they were comparing ‘whose Afro was the roundest’. It reminded me of the casual everyday observances in Joni Mitchell songs. It’s a beautiful acoustic performance.


That's a good point. I only got into Musicology recently, and while on balance it's likely one of Prince's weakest albums, there's a handful a very nice songs on there. Thinking about it, A Million Days and Cinnamon Girl are the only songs I dislike. The rest of the album's problem is that it doesn't flow together very well, nor does it have much in the way of variety. The songs are fine, taken individually. Anyway, Reflection is my favourite, and it's clearly one of those tracks where Prince put a lot of thought into the lyrics.



Sirpussalot said:

that was good...the most obvious ommission (forgive me if i missed it ) is When Were dancing close and slow .. a line from Coyote and a tune of subtle complexity. Her influence was seen by proxy when Wendy And Lisa got involved. Having Chaka on the record probably cemented his love further. (Dreamland)

She was at times a confessional lyricist , something that he didnt follow

As for emotional pump ... you can hear where hes coming from ..but it doesnt work.

Always felt he overplayed it in interviews ...he loved her no doubt ..but he had a habit of referencing things you wouldnt expect so as keep everybody guessing .. he was hardly gonna namecheck sly or jimi .. as she said 'hes a funny duck'

think ure punching a bit with mr mcgee ... but who knows.


Good shout on Coyote. You know, I should have thought of that because Hejira is my number one album by any artist. As is often the case, and as RJOrion said about The Hissing of Summer Lawns, it's because of the feelings and memories Hejira awakens in me. I listened to it every day during a several-week long hitchhiking trip around Argentina at the age of twenty, which was rather an eye-opening experience. I still put it on my headphones pretty much every time I'm on a plane or lengthy bus journey.

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Reply #13 posted 04/02/20 7:42am

SanMartin

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bonatoc said:


At his eighties apex, Prince doesn't ignore the present of Joni, Sly, Mavis, James and other
musical heroes of his. They are all considered legends, but also has-beens.
He knows this period will come for him eventually.
And he also knows about the Elvis comeback.
He knows about business.


Thank you for this very thoughtful post, and I'm delighted it was my article that prompted it. I've quoted this bit specifically because it reminded me of something Joni said in the cited 1996 interview with Morrisey:

"Well, I was very -- you know, after "Court and Spark" which was my sixth album -- see, I had five without really like a band. There was no real chance of air play without the bottom end on it, and it took me that long to get my band. So I get my band, the record has some commercial success, some nominations, and it's viewed as a kind of a peak. And after that -- okay, because I was so long to develop, six albums, that's as much of a run as people get in the public eye without -- your name is boring. It doesn't matter what you do after that. But I was still in a state of growth, right?"


Depending on how prolific and varied their output is, the 'six-album rule' that Joni mentions here is applicable to many artists, I think. No matter how good you are, no one can rule the charts forever. At best you can have a series of comebacks. Prince might have had a notion in 1985 that he only had a short window before the public started losing interest, so it was wise to strike while the iron was hot in terms of musical growth and experimentation.

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Reply #14 posted 04/02/20 10:10am

poppys

SanMartin said:

bonatoc said:


At his eighties apex, Prince doesn't ignore the present of Joni, Sly, Mavis, James and other
musical heroes of his. They are all considered legends, but also has-beens.
He knows this period will come for him eventually.
And he also knows about the Elvis comeback.
He knows about business.


Thank you for this very thoughtful post, and I'm delighted it was my article that prompted it. I've quoted this bit specifically because it reminded me of something Joni said in the cited 1996 interview with Morrisey:

"Well, I was very -- you know, after "Court and Spark" which was my sixth album -- see, I had five without really like a band. There was no real chance of air play without the bottom end on it, and it took me that long to get my band. So I get my band, the record has some commercial success, some nominations, and it's viewed as a kind of a peak. And after that -- okay, because I was so long to develop, six albums, that's as much of a run as people get in the public eye without -- your name is boring. It doesn't matter what you do after that. But I was still in a state of growth, right?"


Depending on how prolific and varied their output is, the 'six-album rule' that Joni mentions here is applicable to many artists, I think. No matter how good you are, no one can rule the charts forever. At best you can have a series of comebacks. Prince might have had a notion in 1985 that he only had a short window before the public started losing interest, so it was wise to strike while the iron was hot in terms of musical growth and experimentation.


Thanks for the great read - and conversation the thread has started. Good stuff!

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