This piece of WBUR looks at the Joni Mitchell classic, "A Case of You," from her 1971 album, "Blue" (now considered by Rolling Stone to be the 3rd greatest album of all time), and what makes the brilliant and nuanced confessional poetry of the song so groundbreaking. Over 300 covers of the song have been recorded.
But it's not the number of versions that makes this song so enduring. It speaks to each new generation of singers because of the feeling it evoked in me, even when I was a moony teenager, driven by inchoate longings, knowing that there were insights still well beyond my reach. This is a love song by and about grown-ups.
It begins with a spat:
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
But as she sits doodling on a cartoon coaster, the song quickly evolves into a sorrowful consideration of a love that is deep, true and insufficient.
There's no giddiness here. Unlike practically every pop song that came before it, in this one, love is not an intoxicant. Quite the opposite, in fact:
I could drink a case of you darling and I would
Still be on my feet
Oh I would still be on my feet
Some understand those lines to say that she can't get too much of her lover (variously speculated to be Graham Nash or Leonard Cohen). But what I hear all these years later — and the interpretation I prefer — is that with the clarity generated by time and age, she can drink him in, savor him and still be sober enough to clearly see him.