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Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period Hardcover – April 7, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416559299
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416559290
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mercer (Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter) covers the iconic folk maiden Joni Mitchell during her Blue period (roughly 1971 to '76) in what is part music criticism. The book covers the origin and meaning of Blue's songs in Mitchell's own words, her childhood and how her relationships with Graham Nash, Leonard Cohen and James Taylor shaped her music. As her first husband, Chuck Mitchell, said, There are a couple Joans... the literal girl, the prairie tomboy... the historical person, the narrative writer, and the queen—and this book reveals a bit of each of them. Written from a fan's perspective, this book is partly Mercer's own diary, the way Blue was partly Mitchell's diary. This is Mercer's love song to Mitchell, which aims it sometimes to an audience already well-versed in Mitchell history and lore. Whether new or old fans of Joni Mitchell, readers can appreciate the extensive research, and much of the book is in Mitchell's own words, including an entire chapter on her favorite things. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

The emotional depth of Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album “Blue” established a new standard for personal songwriting, attaining an artistry that Mitchell refined in a handful of influential records, culminating with “Hejira,” in 1976. Mercer attempts to explore Mitchell’s formative experiences and her creative process during this period, abetted by the coöperation of the usually unforthcoming singer. There are juicy tidbits in tales of Mitchell’s youth in western Canada; travels in Greece and across America; romances with Leonard Cohen, Graham Nash, James Taylor, and Sam Shepard; and a bracing encounter with the Tibetan monk Chögyam Trungpa. But Mitchell’s ability to articulate the sublime frequently reduces Mercer to a kind of fan-girl gush, and Mitchell herself, open and vulnerable in her art, comes across as prickly and contentious, convinced that she’s underappreciated, no matter how much praise she gets.
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More About the Author

In addition to producing regular essays and reports for National Public Radio, Michelle is the author of Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter and Will You Take Me As I Am. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Village Voice and numerous magazines. She has been awarded artist residencies at the Sacatar Foundation in Brazil, Vermont Studio Center, and Anderson Center for the Arts. Michelle holds an MFA in Literature and Writing from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She lives with her husband in Colorado.

Customer Reviews

This mediocre title does no justice to the excellence of its subject.
This is the sort of thing you think about before writing the book, not dedicating page after page to its discussion.
D. Schumacher
Michelle Mercer has made a very good case for Joni Mitchell's music being worthy of my attention.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Diana K. Jackson on January 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michelle Mercer likes to write about herself nearly as much as the subject of her book. Though she claims to be uninterested in gossip..."Celebrity gossip is not very compelling to me...Basically, I'm more interested in how songwriters make thier work personal than in what they get personal about", she indeed dishes throughout the book and speculates on Mitchell's personal matters. Mercer tries very hard to describe the special relationship she claims to have with Mitchell, and brags about an incident during a dinner with Mitchell and others where Mitchell called one of Mercer's comments "ignorant." "Everyone at the table froze over their salads. The Great Goddess's ire had been raised. But I wasn't going to be cowed -..."

The final offense in this book supposedly about Mitchell is when Mercer lashes out in an unnaturally vicious way about Dan Fogleberg. After reading that part of the book two times, I am still unable to determine why she included her rant in the book. Shameless, really, and completely irrelevant.

Do yourself a favor and re-listen to Mitchell's music. No reason to learn more about a pompous, self-serving Mercer through this painful book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. CRADDOCK VINE VOICE on June 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I realize that Joni Mitchell is talented but confess that I am not a big fan. Still, a lot of people that I respect and admire have a lot of respect for her, and I found myself intrigued by this book. Once I got started I couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed Michelle Mercer's writing, and was impressed that her other book was about Wayne Shorter. Wayne was a member of Miles Davis' group and Weather Report, and is a very talented composer and musician. If he vouches for Mitchell's authenticity, that is good enough for me.

Though the book focused on Joni Mitchell, there were a few places where Michelle Mercer turned the spotlight on herself. First she confessed that she would test potential boyfriends by their reaction to Joni's Blue album, and the other was where she told a story about camping with her boyfriend and his father who would set up his tent and then kick back and listen to Dan Fogelberg on his boombox. She felt that Free Jazz was the appropriate music to contemplate nature's tranquility, and would storm off on an angry hike. I would have failed the Joni Blue litmus test miserably, but I might also object to Fogelberg as idyllic background music, though John Denver would be more likely to set me off on a rampage than Fogelberg. Free Jazz would not be my choice for a replacement, as I was more of a Jazz Purist, who didn't much care for either Free Jazz or Smooth Jazz.  

But I digress. WYTMAIA is not a biography of Joni Mitchell, though there is plenty of biographical materiel used to illustrate various points. Rather, it is a series of essays organized around Joni Mitchell's music and her approach to writing.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Adamnelli on March 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Factual, analytical and interpretive. Joni Mitachell's "Blue period" of the '70's is covered in depth, from Blue to Hejira. Revealing and enlightening. Achieves a very real sense of what went into her poetry and music juxtaposed with her life as she lives it. She has reached millions, I amongst them, who believe she expressed our lives as well as her own. As a member of her peer group during the period she writes about, I am privileged to identify with her.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Brian R. Coleman on December 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I have to admit, I have never been a follower of Joni Mitchell, but I have friends who worship her, and as a music person I felt like I should know more. This book seemed like a good enough place to start, considering that even a neophyte like myself knows that most people consider "Blue" to be her best album, which is the heart of "Will You Take Me As I Am."

I think Michelle Mercer's approach to the book is a solid one - there is clear respect for her subject, but she is also objective in her approach to discussing Joni's early life and how it shaped her work in the '70s. There are some "fan-girl" glimmers in how she discusses her subject, but those are few and far-between. I think that Mercer, importantly, isn't afraid to talk about the more prickly sides of Joni's personality, to give a full picture. She also talks to - seemingly - just about all of those closest with Joni, and to Joni herself. These insights are what sell the book if you ask me - getting real insight into Joni's unique life and approach to making music. The last thing I would want to read is a flowery, post-grad rambling with no first-hand sources.

It's a read that is far from dense and intimidating, but still chock full of substance. And I can definitely say that I know a lot more about Joni than I did going in. Mission accomplished.

Recommended for sure!
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26 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Lilting Banshee on July 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This turns out to be the author's ruminations on 60's and 70's songwriting and its place in the history of confessional and autobiographical expression, using Joni Mitchell's work to support her thesis. Yes, there are some insightful comments on Mitchell's "Blue period" and the quotes from Joni are worthwhile. But the focus on Joni comes and goes, too often going into the kind of analysis you might expect from a decent college paper for an introductory literature class or sometimes losing coherence altogether, e.g. "So landscape in the music of Young and Mitchell is at once more subtle and manifest, because their feelings for the land have a sound less distinguishable from their feeling of the land itself." (p. 56) Huh? At times the book reads like it was written as a series of independent essays, grappling with the same essential topic, making various unsuccessful attempts to define Mitchell's art. A line by line analysis of "Court and Spark" here, a comparison to Allen Ginsberg there. Throw enough comparisons and something will stick. Or not: even Joni Mitchell comes across as confused: "I looked to her [Laura Nyro] and took direction from her. On account of her, I started playing piano again. Laura Nyro you can lump me in with because Laura exerted an influence on me." (p. 84) Well, great! I love Laura Nyro, too! But on page 97, the author says this, "Cohen is also the only songwriter other than Dylan whom Mitchell admits as an influence." I managed to complete the book because the author did have access to Graham Nash, ex-husband Larry Klein, Joni Mitchell, herself, as well as other insiders and their commentary adds some flesh to the artist. But ultimately there are way too many digressions from an obviously intelligent writer just flashing from one idea or artistic comparison (". . .but to borrow from Blake. . ." or St. Augustine or Richard Wagner or Pablo Neruda. . .) to another. This didn't work for me, maybe it will for you.
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