Song of the Day: Joni Mitchell, “Help Me”

Joni Mitchell is a singer/songwriter known for the poetry of her lyrics, often drawing inspiration from her own lived experiences, and for her music, much of which transcends easy categorization. Indeed, it may be right to define her as a fusion artist because of the many varied influences that make up the fabric of her music. First gaining popularity as a folk artist, as her career progressed, Mitchell began to use jazz musicians more and more for various ambitious projects. Fames are, for example, her collaborations with Charles Mingus, with whom she collaborated during the bass great’s final days.

Another noteworthy long-standing collaboration was that with jazz fusion band The L.A. Express, led by saxophonist Tom Scott. The group is heard on many of her albums, including 1974’s Court and Spark, which featured her biggest hit single, “Help Me.” The song was allegedly inspired by her own love travails and defined by a remarkable structural sophistication. It’s hard to believe that, despite its lasting success, Mitchell has defined it as a “throwaway song” but a “good radio record.”  Prince, who was a huge fan of Mitchell, even mentioned it on “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” from his 1987 album, Sign ‘O’ the Times.

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