Despite the success of her first three albums and songs like "Woodstock", the 1970s saw Mitchell make a decision to break from performing. After a tough breakup with her longtime boyfriend Graham Nash she set off on a vacation around Europe, during which she wrote many of the songs that appear on Blue.
The album was almost released in a somewhat different form. In March 1971, completed masters for the album were ready for production. Originally, there were three old songs that had not found their way onto any of her previous albums. At the last minute, Mitchell decided to remove two of the three so that she could add the new songs "All I Want" and "The Last Time I Saw Richard". The two songs removed were:
"Urge for Going" – her first song to achieve commercial success when recorded by country singer George Hamilton IV. It was later released as the B-side of "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" and again on her 1996 compilation album, Hits.)
"Hunter (The Good Samaritan)", which has never appeared on any of Mitchell's albums. However, her live performance is now available on the Amchitka Concert CD, together with three other songs that later appeared on Blue, "A Case Of You", "My Old Man" and "Carey", which she morphs into Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" in a duet with her boyfriend at the time, James Taylor.
"Little Green", composed in 1967, was the only old song that remained.
There has been persistent speculation that the album, and particularly the title track, were named after fellow songwriter David Blue, who was a friend and possible love interest of Mitchell's when the album was released. She has denied the connection.
In 1979 Mitchell reflected, "The Blue album, there's hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong. Or to be happy. But the advantage of it in the music was that there were no defenses there either."
The album was influenced by jazz, particularly the music of Miles Davis. Mitchell used alternative tunings on her guitar to allow easier access to augmented chords and notes in unexpected combinations. Due to the stark and bare revelations in the album, when it was first played for Nashville tunesmith Kris Kristofferson, he is reported to have commented either ‘Joni, ugh. Keep some of that to yourself!’ or ‘Please! Leave something of yourself.’
01. The Blue Lagoon trailer 02. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox 03. The pool scene from "The Graduate" 04. Water (Sesame Street cartoon) 05. Miss Piggy's Fantasy - The Great Muppet Caper 06. Underwater scene from "Jupiter's Darling" 07. Fuzzy and Blue - Sesame Street 08. A History of the Sky 09. The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio
1. The Blues Brothers (1980) 2. Crossroads (1986) 3. Mo' Better Blues (1990) 4. Genghis Blues (1990) 5. Martin Scorcese Presents: The Blues, A Musical Journey (2003) 6. Ray (2004) 7. Black Snake Moan (2006)