Joni Mitchell is gifted with songwriting capabilities and an honesty that made her stand out from her coterie of fellow folkies that rose to prominence at a similar time. Mitchell could incomparably dissect issues, as is displayed on the eternal breakup anthem, ‘A Case Of You’.
From the moment she first made an impression into public consciousness, it was clear that Mitchell had a rare confessional aspect to her songwriting that allowed her to touch otherwise avoidable subjects candidly. Moreover, the singer never glossed over the edges, and her candour was on full show during ‘A Case Of You’, which is undeniably one of her finest moments.
Interestingly, Mitchell refuses to paint herself in a holier-than-thou light on the track, which is an all too rare perspective. How Mitchell presented herself allowed the listener to understand her on a fundamental level, with her blemishes on show rather than a synthetic version.
Over half a century since the release of her seminal album Blue, it remains one of the definitive breakup records, one that sees Mitchell guide the listener through her raw emotions as she stumbles towards the end of her relationship with Graham Nash, with both of them culpable for them parting ways.
On ‘A Case Of You’, she sings, “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.'”
“I think men write very dishonestly about breakups,” she later expressed to Mojo about the track. “I wanted to be capable of being responsible for my own errors. If there was friction between me and another person, I wanted to be able to see my participation in it so I could see what could be changed and what could not. That is part of the pursuit of happiness.
“You have to pull the weeds in your soul when you are young, when they are sprouting, otherwise they will choke you.”
Meanwhile, Mitchell reflected in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1979, eight years after writing the track, “At that period of my life, I had no personal defences. 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 defences there either.”
When she took to the stage in London to perform ‘A Case Of You’ at Wembley Arena in 1983, Mitchell was a different person to the troubled soul who had penned the track a dozen years prior. Still, she allowed herself to feel every emotion once more and convey that feeling across the room.
See the performance, below.