Joni Mitchell – Hejira (1976)

Hejira is the eighth studio album by Canadian singer–songwriter Joni Mitchell, released in November 1976 on Asylum. The title is an Islamic word for “exodus,” a departure from one place or situation for another.

Across the album’s nine songs, Joni recounts her experiences on three recent journeys, starting with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, a ramshackle blitz of the northeastern US and Canada with multiple guests, including the subject of “Coyote.” 

She then plugged her November 1975 album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, with 27 shows along the East Coast and South, where a stop in Memphis inspired “Furry Sings the Blues.” However, the January–February tour ended after her breakup with L.A. Express drummer John Guerin, the subject of “Hejira.”

Her third recent journey was a March cross-country road trip, taken from California with two men: an Australian ex-lover and a thirtysomething flight attendant (the subject of “A Strange Boy”). In Maine, she fled her travel companions and went to New York City, a place of reflection that fueled her musings on a childhood friend (“Song for Sharon”). On her westbound drive, she related her travels to the subject of “Amelia.”

Hejira makes select use of her rhythm section from the prior two albums: Guerin (four tracks) and bassist Max Bennett (two), plus returning guitarist Larry Carlton (four tracks) and Victor Feldman (vibes on “Amelia”).

On three songs, Joni welcomes back For the Roses percussionist Bobbey Hall. “Refuge of the Roads” features Court saxophonist Tom Scott and Hissing trumpeter Chuck Findley. Additional guests include clarinetist Abe Most (“Hejira”), contrabassist Chuck Domanico (“Blue Motel Room”), and Neil Young (harmonica on “Furry Sings the Blues”).

Four tracks (“Coyote,” “Hejira,” “Black Crow,” “Refuge of the Roads”) feature the fretless bass of Jaco Pastorius, a rising star in jazz who recently joined Weather Report.

A1. “Coyote”

5:00 | jazz-folk | lively vocals, layered counterpoint

Rhythm guitar – Joni Mitchell
Fretless bass – Jaco Pastorius

Lead guitar – Larry Carlton
Percussion – Bobbye Hall

Joni uses ‘Coyote’ as a nickname for actor–playwright Sam Shepard, a fellow traveler and brief romantic partner on Dylan’s 1975–76 Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Dylan contracted Shepard to write a screenplay for a proposed documentary film of the tour, which featured Joni on four dates of the first leg.

No regrets Coyote
We just come from such different sets of circumstance

They won’t work as lover due to their differing careers, lifestyles, schedules, and bases of operation.

I’m up all night in the studios
And you’re up early on your ranch

Shepard, an Illinois farmer’s son, worked on a ranch as a teenager.

You’ll be brushing out a brood mare’s tail
While the sun is ascending

In this fictionalized account of Coyote, he tends to the babies of mare (female equine) at dawn. (One of Shepard’s recent works was the 1974 play Geography of a Horse Dreamer, about a man who allegedly predicts the outcomes of horse races in his dreams.)

And I’ll just be getting home with my reel to reel
There’s no comprehending
Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
And the lips you can get

She comes home tired after working graveyard at the studio while he’s newly awake with morning glory.

And still feel so alone
And still feel related
Like stations in some relay
You’re not a hit and run driver no no
Racing away

When he sees a woman he likes, he goes for her.

You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway

Her second road metaphor: “prisoner of the white lines” a fellow traveler on a long freeway on an adjacent lane in the same direction.

We saw a farmhouse burning down
In the middle of nowhere
In the middle of the night

Real (or imaginary) details of roadside spectacles on the Rolling Thunder tour bus.

And we rolled right past that tragedy
Till we turned into some road house lights
Where a local band was playing

Locals were up kicking and shaking on the floor

The tour bus stops at a random hinterland dive bar.

And the next thing I know
That Coyote’s at my door
He pins me in a corner and he won’t take no
He drags me out on the dance floor

Coyote (aggressive and cocky) makes her his woman for the night.

And we’re dancing close and slow
Now he’s got a woman at home
He’s got another woman down the hall
He seems to want me anyway

Shepard had a wife and a mistress during the time he courted Joni.

Why’d you have to get so drunk
And lead me on that way
You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway

She holds him responsible responsible for their tryst.

I looked a coyote right in the face
On the road to Baljennie near my old home town
He went running thru the whisker wheat

Chasing some prize down

She likens the behavior of an actual coyote that she spots in Baljennie (a municipality in Saskatchewan, Canada) as a metaphor for Coyote (Shepard).

And a hawk was playing with him
Coyote was jumping straight up and making passes
He had those same eyes just like yours
Under your dark glasses

Likely the reason why she nicknamed Shepard “Coyote.”

Privately probing the public rooms
And peeking thru keyholes in numbered doors
Where the players lick their wounds
And take their temporary lovers
And their pills and powders to get them thru this passion play

Apparently, peeping occurred on the tour, especially on notorious members of the entourage.

No regrets Coyote
I’ll just get off up aways
You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway

Coyote moves on to his next conquest. Joni takes a quick peek out of curiosity then brushes things aside.

Coyote’s in the coffee shop
He’s staring a hole in his scrambled eggs
He picks up my scent on his fingers
While he’s watching the waitresses’ legs

He’s still tempted by Joni, yet eyeing new prey.

He’s too far from the Bay of Fundy
From appaloosas and eagles and tides

He’s far from American seas and wildlife, such as eagles and spotted horses. He’s also fard from scenic settings, such as the Bay of Fundy (located between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia).

And the air conditioned cubicles
And the carbon ribbon rides
Are spelling it out so clear
Either he’s going to have to stand and fight
Or take off out of here

She reckons he doesn’t enjoy metropolitan life.

I tried to run away myself
To run away and wrestle with my ego
And with this flame
You put here in this Eskimo

She struggles with her weakness for men like Coyote. He stirs up heat that melts her cold (“Eskimo”) exterior.

In this hitcher
In this prisoner
Of the fine white lines
Of the white lines on the free free way

She calls herself a “prisoner” of her weakness (desire).

A2. “Amelia”

6:00 | jazz-folk ballad | dark, minimal, plaintive

Rhythm guitar – Joni Mitchell
Lead guitar – Larry Carlton
Vibes – Victor Feldman

Joni relates her wanderlust as a plane-traveling musician to the feats of Amelia Earhart (b. 1897), the American aviation pioneer who completed the world’s fifth transatlantic flight (June 1928) and the first solo Hawaii→California flight (January 1935).

In July 1937, Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10-E Electra disappeared over the Pacific during the final stage of her attempt to circumnavigate the globe. The circumstances of her final minutes remain a mystery, though some historians speculate that a fuel shortage forced her to land on a desert atoll in the equatorial Pacific, where she and her co-navigator (Fred Noonan) presumably perished.

Joni reckons that Amelia landed over a “false alarm” and (on that note) proceeds with her modern-day flight (hejira). Despite constant travel, this particular flight is from a recent romantic disappointment involving LA Express drummer John Guerin.

I was driving across the burning desert
When I spotted six jet planes
Leaving six white vapor trails across the bleak terrain
It was the hexagram of the heavens
It was the strings of my guitar
Amelia * it was just a false alarm

Joni sees symbolic meaning in the six white Jet tails marked across the sky. They represent her muse; a divine inspiration.

The drone of flying engines
Is a song so wild and blue

Engine sounds provide the ambience of her hejira; her flight from one place to another.

It scrambles time and seasons if it gets thru to you
Then your life becomes a travelogue
Of picture post card charms
Amelia it was just a false alarm

Her sense of time has been distorted by constant air travel between times zones and cities.

People will tell you where they’ve gone
They’ll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself you never really know
Where some have found their paradise
Others just come to harm
Oh, Amelia it was just a false alarm

One person’s paradise is another person’s h**l. No place is perfect and bad actors exist in every scene.

I wish that he was here tonight
It’s so hard to obey
His sad request of me to kindly stay away
So this is how I hide the hurt
As the road leads cursed and charmed
I tell Amelia it was just a false alarm

She copes with a recent breakup through travel (hejira).

A ghost of aviation
She was swallowed by the sky
Or by the sea like me she had a dream to fly

Joni likens her free spirit and wanderlust to Earhart’s pursuits.

Like Icarus ascending
On beautiful foolish arms
Amelia it was just a false alarm

She likens their mutual bravery to Icarus and his ascent on the wings of freedom.

Maybe I’ve never really loved
I guess that is the truth
I’ve spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitudes

She correlates her inability to bond long-term to groundlessness, a consequence of constant air travel.

And looking down on everything
I crashed into his arms
Amelia it was just a false alarm

As if to say “too fast, too soon.”

I pulled into the Cactus Tree Motel
To shower off the dust
And I slept on the strange pillows of my wanderlust
I dreamed of 747s
Over geometric farms
Dreams Amelia – dreams and false alarms

She takes solace in her isolation at a random stop in the middle of nowhere, lost in dreams of flight (hejira).

A3. “Furry Sings the Blues”

5:03 | folk-blues ballad | slow, effervescent, nostalgic

Guitar – Joni Mitchell
Drums – John Guerin

Bass – Max Bennett
Harmonica – Neil Young

Joni laments the dissolution of Old Beale Street, a historic neighborhood in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee, that runs 2.9 km between the Mississippi River and East Street. Beale housed various shops and blues clubs between the 1890s and 1940s. One year after this song, in December 1977, Congress declared Beale Street the “Home of the Blues.”

Despite its historical significance, Beale Street declined in the 1960s amid cutbacks and nearby developments. By the mid-1970s, Beale was a virtual ghost town of block-to-block shuttered shops and boarded theatres. The neighborhood later underwent a vast renewal, starting in the 1980s. By the 2000s, Beale reemerged as a tourist attraction.

“Furry” refers to Walter Furry Lewis (189?–1981), a one-legged country bluesman of the 1920s who staged a comeback during the 1960s blues revival. Joni wrote this song after a visit to Lewis’s apartment on February 5, 1976.

Old Beale Street is coming down
Sweeties’ Snack Bar boarded up now
And Egles the Tailor and the Shine Boy’s gone
Faded out with ragtime blues

Joni notes the former snack bars, clothing shops, and shoe-shine stands that once lined Beale in the ragtime era.

Handy’s cast in bronze
And he’s standing in a little park
With a trumpet in his hand
Like he’s listening back to the good old bands
And the click of high heeled shoes

Her first of two mentions of W. C. Handy (1873–1958), an American trumpeter who composed some of the earliest-published blues songs. Furry was a Handy protege. She’s referencing Handy’s bronze statue, erected in 1960 in Handy Park. She imagines him back in the day as a bandleader in a club full of dancing patrons.

Old Furry sings the blues
Propped up in his bed
With his dentures and his leg removed

A reference to Furry’s 1916 leg amputation due to an injury sustained from a train-hopping accident.

And Ginny’s there
For her kindness and Furry’s beer
She’s the old man’s angel overseer

“Ginny” alludes to gin, his possible companion and guiding “spirit” (along with beer) in his time of recovery.

Pawn shops glitter like gold tooth caps
In the grey decay
They chew the last few dollars off
Old Beale Street’s carcass

She takes pity in the bleak pawn shops that remain amid Beale’s decay.

Carrion and mercy
Blue and silver sparkling drums
Cheap guitars eye shades and guns
Aimed at the hot blood of being no one
Down and out in Memphis Tennessee

Depictions of violence and despair amid the ruins of this once-lively neighborhood.

Old Furry sings the blues
You bring him smoke and drink and he’ll play for you
lt’s mostly muttering now and sideshow spiel
But there was one song he played
I could really feel

Here she talks about the Furry she witnessed on her visit and the songs he played. He suffered cataracts in his later years. Despite his frailty and vocal limitations, one song resonated with her.

There’s a double bill murder at the New Daisy
The old girl’s silent across the street
She’s silent waiting for the wrecker’s beat
Silent staring at her stolen name

Violence lingers as neighborhood elders face eviction. The “double-bill murder” could refer to a matinee twofer at the New Daisy Theatre (330 Beale St) during its first few decades as a cinema; or to an actual double-murder that occurred in recent times outside the theater.

Diamond boys and satin dolls
Bourbon laughter ghosts history falls
To parking lots and shopping malls
As they tear down old Beale Street

The jazz cats, flappers, and dive bars of yore haunt this historic neighborhood like ghosts amid the pimps, prostitutes, and addicts of Beale’s current iteration.

Old Furry sings the blues
He points a bony finger at you and says
“I don’t like you”

Furry, a likely curmudgeon in his later years, had a vocal dislike for this song.

Everybody laughs as if it’s the old man’s standard joke
But it’s true
We’re only welcome for our drink and smoke

Apparently, locals laughed off his curmudgeonly demeanor and appreciate him as a neighborhood legend.

W. C. Handy I’m rich and I’m fey
And I’m not familiar with what you played
But I get such strong impressions of your hey day

She calls out to the spirit of Handy, who died when she was fifteen (eighteen years before her visit to the neighborhood). With romantic fondness for an era before her time, she imagines his performance charisma and the excitement it generated among ragtime-era Beale habitues.

Looking up and down old Beale Street
Ghosts of the darktown society
Come right out of the bricks at me
Like it’s a Saturday night
They’re in their finery
Dancing it up and making deals

Further visualizations of the Beale’s old spirit, which haunts the current ruins.

Furry sings the blues
Why should I expect that old guy to give it to me true

She admits that their encounter was underwhelming, though she’s happy for the experience.

Fallen to hard luck
And time and other thieves
While our limo is shining on his shanty street
Old Furry sings the blues

With humility, she acknowledges his legend-hood and current hard times as she returns to her entourage and makes her exit from Old Beale.

A4. “A Strange Boy”

4:15 | folk-blues ballad | dark, minimal, major-seventh keys

Rhythm guitar – Joni Mitchell
Lead guitar – Larry Carlton
Percussion – Bobbye Hall

Joni sings of a grown-man with childlike characteristics. The man in question was a thirtysomething flight attendant who lived with his parents.

In March 1976, as Joni reeled from her recent split from Guerin and her Rolling Thunder fling with Shepard, she reconnected with an old flame from Australia. They embarked on a cross-country road trip with a third man, who attracted Joni despite his childlike manner. The two carried out their affair in cramped quarters until they reached Maine, where Joni parted company and finished the trip on her own.

A strange boy is weaving
A course of grace and havoc
On a yellow skateboard
Thru midday sidewalk traffic

Joni attributes a combination of adult sophistication (grace) and childlike rambunctiousness (havoc) to her roadside lover.

Just when I think he’s foolish and childish
And I want him to be manly
I catch my fool and my child
Needing love and understanding

On one hand, she craves a man with the mannerisms of a mature adult, yet her inner-teenager (or possibly her inner-cougar) finds herself drawn to this man-child.

What a strange strange boy
He still lives with his family
Even the war and the navy
couldn’t bring him to maturity

She reveals that the strange boy served in Vietnam as a naval officer and returned home to live with his parents (possibly to save money while working as a flight attendant, a job that entails many days and nights away from home). Joni deems this immature, as if his overseas adventures didn’t build him into a strong, independent man.

He keeps referring back to school days
And clinging to his child
Fidgeting and bullied
His crazy wisdom holding onto something wild

Therefore, he ruminates over his younger years with lingering trauma inflicted by school peers.

He asked me to be patient
Well I failed
“Grow up!” I cried
And as the smoke was clearing he said
“Give me one good reason why”

He views the intentions of her “grow up” command as misguided, given the cruelty of the world and his own unorthodox livelihood.

What a strange strange boy
He sees the cars as sets of waves
Sequences of mass and space

This could reference his cynical worldview, expressed through asides about passing vehicles and anonymous stars in space.

He sees the damage in my face

So then, he sees her as a somewhat road-worn woman whose face bears the scars of baggage (romantic and otherwise).

We got high on travel
And we got drunk on alcohol
And on love the strongest poison and medicine of all
See how that feeling comes and goes

She describes their romance as a booze-addled, roadside whirlwind and invokes the “Love Is the Drug” maxim. Like all drugs, the effects are fleeting.

Like the pull of moon on tides
Now I am surf rising
Now parched ribs of sand at his side

She now feels empty and drained; lured by “the pull” to move on.

What a strange strange boy
I gave him clothes and jewelry
I gave him my warm body
I gave him power over me

She spoiled him with gifts; the kind that she could afford as a powerful woman. Once they consummated their relationship, he gained an emotional power over her.

A thousand glass eyes were staring
In a cellar full of antique dolls
I found an old piano
And sweet chords rose up in waxed New England halls

Their journey climaxed in a Maine town populated by geriatrics (“thousand glass eyes,” spectacles or windows), where they visited an antique store and a dive bar (“antique dolls” could be literal dolls, old ladies, or both). Here, she found inspiration for a song (“sweet chords rose up”).

While the boarders were snoring
Under crisp white sheets of curfew
We were newly lovers then
We were fire in the stiff blue-haired house rules

They made wild love at a stuffy old folks lodge and disregarded the noise complaints of fellow tenants.

A5. “Hejira”

6:35 | folk-jazz ballad | dark, minimal, melancholic

Bass – Jaco Pastorius
Guitar – Joni Mitchell
Percussion – Bobbye Hall
Clarinet – Abe Most

Joni reflects on her breakup with John Guerin, who she dated on-and-off between the 1974 Court and Spark sessions and the January–February 1976 tour behind The Hissing of Summer Lawns.

I’m traveling in some vehicle
I’m sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away

She hits the road and sits alone to contemplate a love gone wrong.

There’s comfort in melancholy
When there’s no need to explain
It’s just as natural as the weather
In this moody sky today

She accepts that breakups happen and both parties are equal in their innocence and culpability.

In our possessive coupling
So much could not be expressed
So now I’m returning to myself
These things that you and I suppressed

Despite their passion, they couldn’t establish a meaningful head-to-head, heart-to-heart communication. She now resolves to go her own way and cope with issues that she couldn’t confide in him.

I see something of myself in everyone
Just at this moment of the world
As snow gathers like bolts of lace
Waltzing on a ballroom girl

She knows that everyone has felt the same disappointment. Though unspoken, this universal sentiment comforts her as she braces for a cold winter.

You know it never has been easy
Whether you do or you do not resign
Whether you travel the breadth of extremities
Or stick to some straighter line

She recognizes romantic breakups hurt all types of people, whether they lead roaming lives (like hers) or walk the straight and narrow.

Now here’s a man and a woman sitting on a rock
They’re either going to thaw out or freeze
Strains of Benny Goodman
Coming through the snow and the pinewood trees

She sees an intense couple seated outside in the cold, too consumed in the heat of their argument to care about the weather. Just as the spectacle gives her flashbacks to John, the nearby music lifts her mood.

I’m porous with travel fever
But you know I’m so glad to be on my own
Still somehow the slightest touch of a stranger
Can set up trembling in my bones

Despite her road-worn marks, she takes comfort in constant travel (hejira). Despite the troubles she has with emotional communication outside of song, physical communication remains a powerful aphrodisiac.

I know no one’s going to show me everything
We all come and go unknown
Each so deep and superficial
Between the forceps and the stone

No lover could possibly fulfill all her wishes; that’s not how love works. People learn as they live and often feel intense emotions over misguided concepts (falling deep for the ideal of “perfect” love).

Well I looked at the granite markers
Those tribute to finality to eternity
And then I looked at myself here
Chicken scratching for my immortality

She visits a funeral and reads the tombstone epitaphs of departed souls. This makes her question the human legacy concept and whether her accomplishments will amount to anything substantial after she’s gone.

In the church they light the candles
And the wax rolls down like tears
There’s the hope and the hopelessness
I’ve witnessed thirty years

She thinks about the church rituals of her youth and questions its impact on her outlook and choices.

We’re only particles of change I know I know
Orbiting around the sun
But how can I have that point of view
When I’m always bound and tied to someone

She acknowledges that humans are tiny specs in the grand scheme of the universe. Her trouble with relationships, so it seems, is that pair-bonds diminish her autonomy.

White flags of winter chimneys
Waving truce against the moon
In the mirrors of a modern bank
From the window of a hotel room

She surrenders to winter alone, at peace with herself at her current destination.

I’m traveling in some vehicle
I’m sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
Until love sucks me back that way

She’s back where she started, free from recent drama and open to new adventures, including love.

Prince proteges Wendy & Lisa used the line “White flags of winter chimneys” as the title of their 2008 fifth album as a duo.

B1. “Song for Sharon”

8:30 | folk-blues opus | dark, plaintive, narrative

Drums – John Guerin
Bass – Max Bennett
Vocals & Guitar – Joni Mitchell

Joni sings an open letter to her childhood friend, Sharon Bell. In their younger years, Sharon harbored dreams of a singing career while Joni wanted to be a housewife. As adults, the reverse panned out: Sharon resigned to Saskatoon family life while Joni thrived as a singer and songwriter. Over the years, the irony weighed on both women.

Joni conceived the song in New York after a visit to the Mandolin Brothers store on Staten Island, where she purchased a 1915 Gibson K-4 mandocello and a Martin 000-28 herringbone guitar.

I went to Staten Island, Sharon
To buy myself a mandolin
And I saw the long white dress of love
On a storefront mannequin

Joni mentions her visit to the mandolin shop on Staten Island, where she passed a wedding gown store and thinks back to her childhood friend.

Big boat chuggin’ back with a belly full of cars
All for something lacy
Some girl’s going to see that dress
And crave that day like crazy

She thinks of the brides who come to the store, by car and boat, to pick out wedding dresses. As someone who once wanted nothing more than domestic bliss, Joni takes amusement in the fact that many young girls dream of their wedding day.

Little Indian kids on a bridge up in Canada
They can balance and they can climb
Like their fathers before them
They’ll walk the girders of the Manhattan skyline

Manhattan’s constitution workers remind her of working class schoolmates in Canada who played on bridges and likely entered the labor market.

Shine your light on me Miss Liberty
Because as soon as this ferry boat docks
I’m headed to the church
To play Bingo
Fleece me with the gamblers’ flocks

As she hits NYC on a spending spree, she uses the Statue of Liberty as a good luck charm.

I can keep my cool at poker
But I’m a fool when love’s at stake
Because I can’t conceal emotion
What I’m feeling’s always written on my face

She’s fine with poker because, unlike love, it doesn’t require emotional investment.

There’s a gypsy down on Bleecker Street
I went in to see her as a kind of joke
And she lit a candle for my love luck
And eighteen bucks went up in smoke

Joni visits a tarot lady and spends hefty pocket cash for a baseless psychic reading.

Sharon I left my man
At a North Dakota junction
And I came out to the “Big Apple” here
To face the dream’s malfunction

While Sharon counts her wedding anniversaries, Joni recovers from her umpteenth breakup. Now she’s in NYC, where the city’s chaos seems apropos to her love life.

Love’s a repetitious danger
You’d think I’d be accustomed to
Well I do accept the changes
At least better than I used to do

After numerous affairs (Leonard Cohen, David Crosby, Graham Nash, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, John Guerin, etc.), each breakup comes with its own pain. Despite her disappointment, she’s grown hardened to the cycle.

A woman I knew just drowned herself
The well was deep and muddy
She was just shaking off futility
Or punishing somebody

She’s referring to model Phyllis Major, who married Jackson Browne after his 1973 breakup with Joni, who harbored ill-feelings toward the German-born American singer–songwriter.

My friends were calling up all day yesterday
All emotions and abstractions
It seems we all live so close to that line
and so far from satisfaction

As calls pour in about Major’s suicide (on March 25, 1976), emotions about the tragedy connect with broader fears and thoughts of mortality.

Dora says “Have children”
Mama and Betsy say “Find yourself a charity
Help the needy and the crippled or put some time into Ecology”
Well there’s a wide wide world of noble causes

And lovely landscapes to discover
But all I really want to do right now
Is find another lover

Various women in Joni’s life find purpose in charitable causes. By putting back into their communities, they stay productive, connected, and meaningful. (Charity may also help them atone for guilt and shame.) Joni, however, gives to the public through her music. In private, she wants the one thing money can’t buy.

When we were kids in Maidstone, Sharon
I went to every wedding in that little town
To see the tears and the kisses
And the pretty lady in the white lace wedding gown

Joni recalls their youth in Maidstone, Saskatchewan, where Mitchell (the young romantic) immersed herself in weddings with bridal envy.

And walking home on the railroad tracks
Or swinging on the playground swing
Love stimulated my illusions
More than anything

As a little girl, Joni had fairy-tale visions of love that (as she now knows) bore no resemblance to the adult realities.

And when I went skating after Golden Reggie
You know it was white lace I was chasing
Chasing dreams
Mama’s nylons underneath my cowgirl jeans

She recalls her first crush, who she chased with dreams of a wedding. The feeling gave her an early tinge of womanhood, as symbolized by wearing adult clothes.

He showed me first you get the kisses
And then you get the tears
But the ceremony of the bells and lace
Still veils this reckless fool here

Joni and this Reggie boy kissed and played around before he broke her heart. This was only the beginning, as her dreams of “bells and lace” would cloud her judgement of guy after guy.

Now there are twenty-nine skaters on Wollman Rink
Circling in singles and in pairs
In this vigorous anonymity
A blank face at the window stares and
stares and stares and stares and stares

Joni, dressed down and possibly incognito, slips into this public recreational place in relative anonymity and watches couples on the ice floor. (In the 1970s, Wollman Rink in Central Park doubled as a concert venue.)

And the power of reason
And the flowers of deep feeling
Seem to serve me
Only to deceive me

Her inner-voice of reason struggles with her unconscious feelings, which typically overpower her sense of judgement.

Sharon you’ve got a husband
And a family and a farm
I’ve got the apple of temptation
And a diamond snake around my arm

Sharon has the things that young Joni had wanted (family life) while Joni lingers in the lures of desire (but monied enough for fancy jewelry).

But you still have your music
And I’ve still got my eyes on the land and the sky
You sing for your friends and your family
I’ll walk green pastures by and by

Sharon wrote songs but reserved them for family and friends. Meanwhile, Joni lives a life of studios, cities, freeways, and airplanes. As adults, they’ve traded their childhood ambitions.

This song motivated Sharon Bell to record her songs at a local studio for family and friends.

B2. “Black Crow”

4:20 | folk-blues shuffle | brisk, searing, layered

Bass – Jaco Pastorius
Rhythm guitar – Joni Mitchell
Lead guitar – Larry Carlton

Joni uses the black crow’s endless flight as a metaphor for her life as a musician who travels city-to-city and roams free between work commitments.

There’s a crow flying
Black and ragged
Tree to tree
He’s black as the highway that’s leading me

The crow become of symbol of her travels because, in a sense, his pursuits mirror hers.

Now he’s diving down
To pick up on something shiny
I feel like that black crow
In a blue sky

The crow sets its eyes on prey and reaches down and deep for what it wants. Joni relates as a relentless individual who reached far and wide for her position.

I took a ferry to the highway
Then I drove to a pontoon plane
I took a plane to a taxi
And a taxi to a train

As a musician, she’s lived in and out of vehicles, planes, and hotels for nearly ten years.

I’ve been traveling so long
How’m I ever going to know my home
When I see it again
I’m like a black crow flying
In a blue blue sky

Her relative lack of home time (especially during the months of her three Hejira journeys) makes her feel like a vagabond.

In search of love and music
My whole life has been

The two driving forces in her life (romance and song) bring illuminate her in different ways (the spotlight; the light of affection) yet also have downsides, such as her groundless current situation.

And diving diving diving diving
Diving down to pick up on every shiny thing
Just like that black crow flying
In a blue sky

She drives for shiny things (fame, fortune, accolades) just like the crow dives down for shiny things like diamonds. (According to European folklore, canny corvids lined their nests with diamond rings.)

I looked at the morning
After being up all night
I looked at my haggard face in the bathroom light
I looked out the window

Constant travel and hotel stops have disrupted her biorhythm and rendered her road-worn.

And I saw that ragged soul take flight
I saw a black crow flying
In a blue sky
Oh I’m like a black crow flying
In a blue sky

In the end she takes solace in the black crow which, in its own way, would relate to her better than most humans.

Joni wears black crow wings in the album’s photos (visible on the inner-gate).

B3. “Blue Motel Room”

5:03 | |

Bass – Chuck Domanico
Drums – John Guerin
Acoustic guitar – Larry Carlton
Electric guitar – Joni Mitchell

As Joni headed westward from her East Coast road trip, she stopped for two nights at the DeSoto Beach Motel in Savannah, Georgia, where her mind turned to John Guerin.

I’ve got a blue motel room
With a blue bedspread
I’ve got the blues inside and outside my head
Will you still love me
When I call you up when I’m down
Here in Savannah it’s pouring rain
Palm trees in the porch light like slick black cellophane
Will you still love me
When I call you up when I get back to town
I know that you’ve got all those pretty girls coming on
Hanging on your boom-boom-pachyderm
Will you tell those girls that you’ve got German Measles
Honey, tell them you’ve got germs
I hope you’ll be thinking of me
Because I’ll be thinking of you
While I’m traveling home alone
Tell those girls that you’ve got Joni
She’s coming back home

I’ve got road maps
From two dozen states
I’ve got coast to coast just to contemplate
Will you still love me
When I get back to town
It’s funny how these old feelings hang around
You think they’re gone
No, no
They just go underground
Will you still love me
When I get back to L.A. town
You and me, we’re like America and Russia
We’re always keeping score
We’re always balancing the power
And that can get to be a cold cold war
We’re going to have to hold ourselves a peace talk
In some neutral café
You lay down your sneaking round the town honey
And I’ll lay down the highway

I’ve got a blue motel room
With a blue bedspread
I’ve got the blues inside and outside my head
Will you still love me
When I get back to town

B4. “Refuge of the Roads”


Bass – Jaco Pastorius
Drums – John Guerin
Guitar – Joni Mitchell
Horns – Chuck Findley & Tom Scott

I met a friend of spirit *
He drank and womanized ^
And I sat before his sanity
I was holding back from crying
He saw my complications
And he mirrored me back simplified
And we laughed how our perfection
Would always be denied
“Heart and humor and humility”
He said “Will lighten up your heavy load”
I left him for the refuge of the roads

I fell in with some drifters
Cast upon a beachtown
Winn Dixie cold cuts and highway hand me downs
And I wound up fixing dinner
For them and Boston Jim
I well up with affection
Thinking back down the roads to then
The nets were overflowing
In the Gulf of Mexico
They were overflowing in the refuge of the roads

There was spring along the ditches
There were good times in the cities
Oh radiant happiness
It was all so light and easy
Till I started analyzing
And I brought on my old ways
A thunderhead of judgment was
Gathering in my gaze
And it made most people nervous
They just didn’t want to know
What I was seeing in the refuge of the roads

I pulled off into a forest
Crickets clicking in the ferns
Like a wheel of fortune
I heard my fate turn turn turn
And I went running down a white sand road
I was running like a white-assed deer
Running to lose the blues
To the innocence in here
These are the clouds of Michelangelo
Muscular with gods and sungold
Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads

In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn’t see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You couldn’t see these cold water restrooms
Or this baggage overload
Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads


A1. “Coyote” (5:00)
A2. “Amelia” (6:00)
A3. “Furry Sings the Blues” (5:03)
A4. “A Strange Boy” (4:15)
A5. “Hejira” (6:35)
B1. “Song for Sharon” (8:30)
B2. “Black Crow” (4:20)
B3. “Blue Motel Room” (5:03)
B4. “Refuge of the Roads” (6:37)


Joni Mitchell – vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Chuck Findley, Tom Scott – horns (B4)
Abe Most – clarinet (A5)
Neil Young – harmonica (A3)
Victor Feldman – vibraphone (A2)
Larry Carlton – electric guitar (A2, A4, B2); acoustic guitar (B3)
Max Bennett – bass guitar (A3, B1)
Jaco Pastorius – fretless bass (A1, A5, B2, B4)
Chuck Domanico – double bass (B3)
John Guerin – drums (A3, B1, B3, B4)
Bobbye Hall – percussion (A1, A4, A5)

Henry Lewy — producer, recording engineer, mixer
Steve Katz — assistant engineer


Artist/Album Pages:

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