Today’s featured song Coyote is the fourth song to appear here from Joni Mitchell in this Music Library Project. What entails the ‘Music Library Project’?
It is the opening song from Joni Mitchell’s 1976 album Hejira and also the album’s first single. I have fond memories of Joni’s performance of this song on the legendary The Last Waltz concert, by The Band – directed by Martin Scorsese. I believe most if not all songs in that concert will feature at some point in this project.
Coyote is reminiscent of Joni’s music on her early albums. As wikipedia states: ‘the the sound was extremely spacious, even repetitive, with the verses made much longer and more like a long story.‘ Joni said, “This album was written mostly while I was traveling in the car.” No piano or keyboards were featured on that album and Coyote was stripped down to electric and acoustic guitars. Many songs from Hejira stayed in her live repertoire late into her career. In 2006 she said, “I suppose a lot of people could have written a lot of my other songs, but I feel the songs on Hejira could only have come from me.”
You have ‘road’ movies in the vain of Midnight Express and Paris Texas, well Coyote is Joni’s ‘road’ song. Not surprising considering she wrote the album travelling in a car. It describes an encounter (which turns into a one-night stand) between the narrator and Coyote, a ranch worker. The narrator sings about Coyote pursuing them across Canada, similar to an actual coyote on the prowl.
According the musicficionado blog, Coyote describes her brief relationship with Sam Shepherd on Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. The road trip that gave birth to the songs on Hejira also led to an acquaintance with Chögyam Trungpa, a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. He snapped her out of her cocaine habit (that she allegedly started on RTR tour) and she wrote the song Refugee of the Roads about him. In Coyote she references her memory of the sex, drugs and folk n’ roll experience that was the Rolling Thunder Revue:
Under your dark glasses
Privately probing the public rooms
And peeking thru keyholes in
Where the players lick their wounds
And take their temporary lovers
And their pills and powders to get
them thru this passion play
Watching her on the Last Waltz was probably my first visual of her. I do like some of her songs…she is an incredible songwriter and her voice…I can’t even explain her voice. It’s like a slide whistle…it can go high and low in a split second.
This is a good song.
It was quite possibly my first viewing of her as well. I really like your vivid description of her voice. I hope this message finds you and your family well Max.
We are fine and the same to you Matt. Hope you and your family are doing well.