A Case Of You

In June of 1981, exactly a decade after its release, I discovered Joni Mitchell’s classic album, Blue.  It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, and I had a job doing odd jobs and projects for an R & D team at the company  Chesebrough-Pond’s (now part of the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate, Unilever).  I worked with some great people, a couple of whom I’m still in touch with all these years later.  In a conversation about music one day, one of them mentioned Blue.  On my next trip to the local Caldor, I bought the LP.

Blue

“A Case of You” is the second to last cut on the album’s second side.  The arrangement is simple: Mitchell on dulcimer and James Taylor on acoustic guitar.  There’s an entire world–of vulnerability, of loss–in this song; I’ve returned to it again and again over the years, and I’m always especially attuned to the second verse and to the second time she sings the refrain, “Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine…” (highlighted in blue), starting 2 minutes and 28 seconds in.  When she sings the ‘my’, highlighted in red, in the last line, she holds the note two beats longer than she did at the same point in the refrain the first time around…and for me that tiny variation adds an additional layer of depth and longing.

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”

On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
Oh Canada
With your face sketched on it twice

Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
Oh I would still be on my feet

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid

I remember that time you told me you said
“Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine
‘Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time

Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of you darling
Still I’d be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

I met a woman
She had a mouth like yours
She knew your life
She knew your devils and your deeds
And she said
“Go to him, stay with him if you can
But be prepared to bleed”

Oh but you are in my blood
You’re my holy wine
You’re so bitter, bitter and so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
Still I’d be on my feet
I would still be on my feet


Trivia tidbit:  The line “I am as constant as a northern star” is a slight variation on a line spoken by Julius Caesar in Act III Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

“I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix’d and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.”

4 comments

  • Only you would analyze a song that closely. You are truly amazing in your attention to details and your breadth of interests. We look forward to your next post. LV

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    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read, listen and comment, LaVaughn. Traffic has been very light so far, so your positive feedback gives me some encouragement.

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  • Never knew Joni Mitchell played dulcimer. First heard this played at a First Night Celebration in Boston in the late 1970s

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