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

3.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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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.)
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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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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: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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I loved Joni Mitchell since the seventies (when I was so much younger). Blue remains one of my favorite CDs. It stands the test of time. Songwriting doesn't get any better. This "biography" lets you glimpse into the younger Joni Mitchell, her songs, her lovers, her demons and her angels. If you can't get enough about Joni, I think you'll enjoy this book.
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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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A great fan of Joni, I loved this book! Apparently Mercer interviewed Joni and received much inside information. Joni is not renowned for giving interviews. I am now reading Katherine Monk's "JONI" (sans interview) and find some discrepancies between the two books. I daresay that Monk's book may be more accurate, but aren't there always discrepancies when discussing a mythic figure. Joni is certainly a chimera! She is also an artist who cannot be defined by any typical genre. Joni is her own genre, and I love her. I certainly know Joni better after reading these books, but to know her intimately I listen to her music. Joni reveals herself through music and art! What better way!
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Format: Hardcover
Picked up _Will You Take Me As I Am_ not too long ago, and I'm glad I did! Mercer gave me new insights into Joni Mitchell's work and life, and the book was a pleasure to read. In addition to being a great portrait of Mitchell, I found the author's style very appealing and pleasingly different from so many other books in the genre. This Mitchell fan in Texas liked it tremendously!
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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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