Happy 40th: Joni Mitchell, HEJIRA
40 years ago today, Joni Mitchell released her eight studio album, an LP which was in large part inspired by cross-country car trips taken by Mitchell in late 1975 and early 1976.
Produced by Mitchell herself, HEJIRA’s title is – appropriately enough – a transliteration of the Arabic word for “journey.” Granted, its usual usage is in terms of a certain Islamic prophet’s migration from Mecca to Medina, but in this case it’s about the highways and byways of America.
"I was getting away from a romance, I was getting away from the craziness and I was searching for something to make sense of everything,” Mitchell told the Ottawa Citizen on the 30th anniversary of the album. “The road became a metaphor for my life. My songs have always been more autobiographical than most people's. It pushes you toward honesty. I was just returning to normal from the extremities of a very abnormal mindset when I wrote most of the songs (on HEJIRA). When life gets interesting I get very alert, and life was very interesting. I think that took the writing to another level."
HEJIRA is also notable for its musicianship, specifically the bass playing of the late, great Jaco Pastorius. For whatever reason, however, the album didn’t resonate as strongly as some of Mitchell’s earlier albums, causing it to stumble somewhat, at least commercially speaking. Insofar as her fans are concerned, it was nothing short of a rousing success – the album has since been voted by fans at JoniMitchell.com as her most popular album – and critics generally cite it right up there with BLUE as being one of Mitchell’s greatest LPs. If you aren’t familiar with it, then this is a fine time to fix that.