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Thoughts on the song Ladies of the Canyon and the time   Print

by Annie Burden
JoniMitchell.com
May 4, 2008

I turned 20 toward the end of 1968. I had a toddler and a husband who designed album covers for the music business. Some of our friends lived in Laurel Canyon, but we lived down the hill from Sunset Boulevard in a little 1930's bungalow nearly hidden by passionflower vines.

My husband, Gary, worked from his studio off the back of the house. This brought a constant parade of artists and musicians flowing through. Many became friends, and nine days out of ten I set extra places around the dinner table. I never thought of myself as part of the scene - until Joni's song framed my role as a homemaker-hostess in the eye of the creative storm. I took it as a great honor to be included in the song, and I still do.

In 1968 I would soon be pregnant again. I was madly in love with my husband and consumed by family life. Looking back I realize what a pivotal year that was in the world, how many extraordinary events shaped the next four decades of my life - not to mention the lives of everyone on the planet.

In 1968 we all stood at a tipping point. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Andy Warhol was shot. Richard Nixon won the presidency. Peace and freedom protests and riots swept the world from New York to Paris to Prague to Mexico City to the Democratic Convention to the Miss America Pageant. Women gathered for the first National Women's Liberation Conference. The first humans orbited the moon.

All the while I gave only passing thoughts to the headlines. With a blinding faith in the future, I simply made babies and brownies, encouraged by the fact that Joni Mitchell saw me as a sort of Martha Stewart of the '60s. Today, for me, Ladies of the Canyon evokes a cherished snapshot of innocence but also a somewhat painful perspective on my own naivete.

 

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