“The Blue album, there’s hardly a dishonest note in the vocals,” Joni Mitchell once said of her masterpiece record. The album has gone down in the annals of music history as the archetypal confessional record but there’s one song on the LP which stands out above the rest. The song is sincerely dripping in sentimentality, orchestrated with authenticity and marvelled at by the music world for being one of Joni’s best, of course, we mean ‘A Case of You’.
Here, we’re taking a look back at a particularly captivating performance of the folk singer’s song as she takes to the London stage to deliver a spellbinding rendition of ‘A Case of You’ back in 1974. It’s a performance which puts Mitchell in her preferred position: a stool, a spotlight and a microphone. With that small set up, Mitchell could provide shows and gigs that would leave the entire audience with never-ending chills.
If you ever needed a reason to recognise Joni Mitchell as one of the foremost songwriters of her generation, and most generations since, then you needn’t look any further than both her 1971 LP Blue and one the album’s standout singles, ‘A Case of You’. The album is regarded as one of her greatest, which in itself is quite some accolade, the song has since become a staple of the music world.
‘A Case of You’ is a view on a blossoming relationship after it has begun to wilt in the sun. The track’s beginning is a poetic nod to the past and a resounding picture of life after love, “Just before our love got lost, you said, ‘I am as constant as a northern star,’ and I said/’Constantly in the darkness – where’s that at? If you want me I’ll be in the bar.’”
One line, in particular, has always risen above the rest when considering ‘A Case of You’ — “I could drink a case of you, darling/ Still I’d be on my feet”. It has always largely been lauded as a signal of Mitchell’s devotion to her protagonist but when considering this from the singer’s point of view, it is more likely a testament to the man’s inability to sweep Joni Mitchell off her feet and rush her off into the dreamy horizon than any kind of drinking challenge.
“One of my main interests in life is human relationships and human interactions,” Mitchell once told interviewer Malka Marom. “I really believe that individuality, the maintenance of individuality, is so necessary to what we would call a true or lasting love, that people who say ‘I love you’ and then begin to do a Pygmalion number on you are wrong, you know. Love has to encompass all the things that a person is.”
It’s something that clearly didn’t happen with the man in focus on Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’. Who that man in the song actually is remains to be declared, but as many have pointed to the esteemed singer-songwriter James Taylor, who helped record the song. While others suggest it could be about Graham Nash or indeed Leonard Cohen. While it could likely be any of the artists mentioned but that fact is trumped by what is a purely beautiful song from Joni Mitchell.
Mitchell told Rolling Stone in 1979: “At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn’t pretend in my life to be strong. Or to be happy. But the advantage of it in the music was that there were no defenses there either.”
It’s sentiment like this that not only marks Mitchell out as one of the purest artists of her generation. There’s no better way to see that purity than by watching this performance of ‘A Case of You’ from Joni Mitchell, alone on the stage with her dulcimer and her music. Her one true love and the only one she’ll keep with her forever.