The Canon, Examined: Joni Mitchell’s “For the Roses”

There’s a track on the new Okkervil River album called “You Can’t Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man.” As far as I can tell, neither the song nor the album have anything to do with Joni Mitchell; nevertheless, the track title is a lyric from my favorite Mitchell song. It appears in the piano-driven “Blonde in the Bleachers,” a tune that goes from sorrowing in the loss of one’s independence to throwing up one’s hands at the hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

The song appears toward the end of For the Roses, which is, for my money, her best album. Which makes it a pretty great album indeed. They don’t make ’em like Joni anymore.

For all the credit Blue and Court and Spark get, it’s For the Roses that I find myself turning to most. “See You Sometime” has a few of her finest autobiographical lyrics (“I’m not after a piece of your fortune and your fame / ’cause I’ve tasted mine”), while “Let the Wind Carry Me” explores the softer side of teenage rebellion. If Blue is an album about celebrating adulthood, For the Roses mourns the loss of glorious youth.

Joni Mitchell – “Blonde in the Bleachers”: mp3

(For the Roses was released in 1972; buy it from Amazon)


The Canon, Examined is a continuing series spotlighting the finest records to ever slip through the cracks. For previous installments, click below.