The iPad painting below was supposed to be Joni Mitchell. It started out as her, and then it kinda’ became someone else. Ok, what’s this all about? Well, it started when Joni Mitchell wrote, “For Free,” a lovely song about an experience she had at an intersection on foot while “waiting for the walking green,” while she happened to hear some nearby guy playing a clarinet “real good” and “for free” all before the “signal changed.” Fast forward, I heard a newer rendition of that song performed by David Crosby and Sarah Jarosz (listen below via YouTube). I fell in love with the song, especially this newer rendition. I’m intrigued by the encapsulation of such a spacious and almost timeless experience into such a brief and situated moment; and, I just love how David and Sarah sing together. What a beautiful song! What a beautiful songwriter! So I looked for some images of Joni Mitchell, you know, to thank her and to get some Saturday practice. And I found a photo that called my attention:
[Joni Mitchell revisits her earliest recordings in “Joni Mitchell Archives — Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967).”Credit…Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images]
So here’s what I came up with on my iPad Pro using Sketch Club:
Here’s David Crosby and Sarah Jarosz performing Joni Mitchell’s For Free. I inserted the lyrics below.
Joni Mitchell (1970)
(Ok, you’ve made it this far, so check this Rolling Stone piece.)
I slept last night in a good hotel
I went shopping today for jewels
The wind rushed around in the dirty town
And the children let out from the schools
I was standing on a noisy corner
Waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood and he played real good
On his clarinet, for free
Now me, I play for fortunes
And those velvet curtain calls
I’ve got a black limousine and two gentlemen
Escorting me to the halls
And I play if you have the money
Or if you’re a friend to me
But the one man band by the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good, for free
Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never been on their TV
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony
I heard his refrain as the signal changed
He was playing real good, for free
There’s been a guitar – or two – in my life for a half a century.
On a weekend visit from college in the late sixties my big brother brought home the first guitar I had ever handled. He could tell I really liked it. A couple of years later he gave me that guitar!
These kinds of drawings are so weird. I started it with a left hand on a fretboard and no idea of how it would unfold or where it would go. It’s done now, waiting in my camera roll for me to insert it into this post; and now my heart is overflowing with emotional memories.
My brother was a central, nearly heroic figure for me throughout the first ten years of my life; actually, that hasn’t changed. Back then, by the time my periscope was up high enough for me to appreciate him as my brother, he was already making plans to go off to college; oh, and this devastated me. I remember an exchange we had one evening in the nearby church parking lot while shooting hoops. As he outlined some of the highlights of this plan, the football scholarship, the name and location of the university, and so on, I burst in tears and tried my best to put into words why this was all so unacceptable. Looking back, I knew he understood because he found a way to help me understand how I could manage without him between visits home and why it was the right move for him to make at that time in his life.
So when he gave me that guitar, he gave me a part of his heart that has been a part of my heart for fifty some odd years…and counting.
Made with Paper by Firth Three on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil
When we lived in Athens, OH, we were right up the road from the Fur Peace Ranch, where Jorma Kaukonen and other extraordinary maestros take beginner-, intermediate-, advanced-, and master-guitar players and move them along to their next levels over the course of a few jam-packed days, breaking now and then to strap on the gourmet feed bag, in a down-home, country retreat setting. It’s much more than a guitar camp, check it out.
Ann got so tired of hearing me play the same old stuff that she secretly registered me for a weekend at the Ranch! That was back in the late 1990s.
There were folks from all over the country, mostly good, some great guitar players!
One thing Jorma said about finger picking that I’ll never forget, “The secret is in the thumb!”
How true! How true! Fortunately, I learned a few things that have made an enduring difference.
What brought back this memory? I saw a Facebook post that the short documentary, Fur Peace Ranch: It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This!, has been selected for a screening at the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 31, 2015! Check out the preview.