Lists pros and cons

I had an interesting exchange Friday after I posted yesterday’s post (“Joni’s foreground music”) to Facebook. 

One of my closest we-should-be-friend-friends-not-just-Facebook-friends friends, Sam Kujava, responded, “I would say she is my favorite female musician but that is considered sexist now, right?” And added, “I cried happy and sad tears watching her perform here,” talking about the “Joni Jam” at Newport Folk Festival on Sunday.

On the subject of “female musicians,” I said, “I’d been thinking whether Bob Dylan was still our greatest songwriter or if Springsteen had passed him, and then I thought of Joni and thought, ‘Wait just a minute …’”

Then Sam said it all: “They’re all up there near the top spot. Maybe we shouldn’t focus on ‘top spot’ and just enjoy them all.”

I am a sucker for lists. In my digging around after the Joni Jam, I dove into Rolling Stone’s “Top 500 Albums of All Time” (Blue was No. 3), and I’m always wanting to rank stuff like that. But Sam’s right: Maybe we should just enjoy them all. Why try to parse whether “Jungleland” or “River” is the more moving song when they both strike the soul to the core? It’s a fun little exercise, but the bottom line is that both songs tell us something unique about what it means to be human.

I locked in my favorite four movies of all time years ago, and the only change in decades has been what’s No. 5 — It’s a Wonderful Life, The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, and E.T. — but do I really choke up marginally more at “ZuZu’s petals — THERE THEY ARE!” than at “There’s no place like home”? Does “You always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself” really move me slightly more than that last “Here’s looking at you, kid”? Does “Louis, I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship” really leave me speechless a tad more than E.T. telling Elliot, “I’ll be right here”?

Maybe I shouldn’t focus on “top spot” and just enjoy them all.

As I type this, I’m listening to “The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey,” from Joni Mitchell’s album Mingus, which I thought I had never enjoyed but now I wonder if I ever bothered to listen to it. She is certainly one of our most adventurous songwriters. She could have been content to produce lovely songs like “Both Sides Now” and “The Circle Game” but instead she went out on a limb and explored “The Jungle Line” and “Shadows and Light,” and I dare say that’s why she is immortal.

We are blessed to have multiple works of art that take our breath away, that touch us in ways that random words and melodies can’t. “Best ever” is a totally subjective statement, and if we’re honest, it changes from moment to moment. 

And here I am, days later, still thinking about that priceless hour at Newport where love of Joni Mitchell focused like a laser in thousands of hearts. Wherever if lands on some list, that experience goes on the “Best Ever” pile.

P.S. What was I thinking? Mingus is amazing!

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