How Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock FOMO created a legendary song - The Strut

How Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock FOMO created a legendary song

The concept of FOMO (fear of missing out) is discussed a lot in these internet days. We get that small pang of jealousy when seeing friends check in together on Foursquare at a new restaurant, or when seeing an instagram of a great shot from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show, but can you imagine missing out on Woodstock in 1969? That’s exactly what happened to Joni Mitchell when her boyfriend Graham Nash (pictured above) and all of her hip music friends went to watch and perform at the festival without her. She was slated to perform at Woodstock but wasn’t able to go because her agent David Geffen thought that it would be too risky for her to go and possibly not make in back to New York City in time for her performance on The Dick Cavett Show.

Here’s the video of her playing on the show:

Joni sat in David Geffen’s suite in New York and watched the news reports about the festival, formulating the thoughts that would end up being a song called Woodstock. In a recent interview with Jian Ghomeshi she said “I was one of the many that who were thwarted, that was the place where every kid wanted to be.” and “I was the deprived kid that couldn’t go, so I wrote it from the point of view of a kid going there.”

Within one month of the festival Joni debuted the new song at at Big Sur as you can see in the below clip. You can see her chuckling to herself with a hint of sadness as she says “Maybe a lot of you were there.”:

Joni let her boyfriend’s band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (who performed at Woodstock) record the song for their album Déjà Vu, and it went on to reach #11 on the Billboard top 100, and #1 on the UK charts.

Steven Stills had wanted to write a song about the experience at Woodstock himself, but Joni’s song was just too good. From a 1970 interview with NME he said:

“I was trying hard to think of something to write about the festival. We told Joni of our plans and I kept working out some ideas. Just as I was on the verge of getting it together, Joni came over and played us her song. She got there first, I said I couldn’t top it.”

Her missing out on the concert helped give her the perspective to capture the spirit of Woodstock in a way no one else could or did. It’s too bad that when we are bummed out about missing something we can’t just be like Joni and write a song that will remembered for many decades to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *