You’re in my blood like holy wine
You’re so bitter and so sweet
I could drink a case of you, darling
And would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet
“A Case of You,” Joni Mitchell
I have a new addition to my “songs I cannot live without” list. “A Case of You” is manages to be heart-rending, honest, and unsentimental all at the same time. The first time I heard it, I knew that it would be a song that means a great deal to me.
This was another song I heard first through The Voice, and James Wolpert’s spare, acoustic version is my favorite, even after I hunted down a bunch of other versions on iTunes. (I ended up buying k.d. lang’s cover, instead of the original, because I have always found Joni Mitchell’s singing voice to be vaguely annoying, even though I recognize that she may well be the greatest female songwriter of my lifetime. I consider it to be Bob Dylan syndrome.)
Just before our love got lost
You said “I’m as constant as the northern star”
And I said “Constantly in the dark, where’s that at?
If you want me I’ll be in the bar.”
There is it: searing unsentimentality, which responds to a cliched poetic declaration of love with scorn, a pin popping a balloon of melodrama. The quotidian “If you want me, I’ll be in the bar,” underscores the seriousness of the pain of “just before our love got lost.” But Mitchell then goes on to use beautiful and poetic language of her own, fresh and startling.
I’m a lonely painter
I live in box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those who ain’t afraid
I drew in my breath. This is who I am, except substitute “the world” for “the devil.” The people I am drawn to are unafraid; they shine like brilliant gems. I have joked that I have a “brain fetish,” but brains are not enough: I am drawn to curiosity, a nature which seeks out challenges, or to unflinching courage in the face of life’s myriad twists and turns. I don’t have that: I am too afraid of failure, of pain. Often, I feel left behind as I watch the eagles spread their wings to fly.
I met a woman
She had a mouth like yours
She knew your life
She knew your devils and your deeds
And she said
“Go to him, stay with him if you can
But be prepared to bleed”
I vacillate as to whether this applies to the people I have loved in my life or myself. A bit of both, I think. Loving people means being prepared to love them whatever happens. All too often that means blood, usually metaphorically. It is the nature of loving people, I think.
I remember that time you told me you said
“Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine
‘Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Everyone we meet, everyone whom we love in all its forms, the people that matter to us: they touch our souls. Who we are in the worlds, we will never be but for the people we meet. Anyone worth knowing, anyone worth caring about, touches my soul. They change me.
Yes, this song means lot to me. It calls out to who I am, with my flaws, my glaring imperfections, yet not in a way that is painful or embarrassing.
It makes me think about myself and the people in my life in a slightly different way; that is always a good thing.