Monday, 13 February 2012

Morgantown & Why I Might Never Visit

Until a few moments ago, Morgantown was a fictitious place that existed solely in Joni Mitchell’s Morning Morgantown song, or at least that’s what I thought. It turns out over 70,000 people call it home with 29,000 of those being students at the University of West Virginia (US). Apparently it was a short time spent studying at this university that provided Joni Mitchell with her inspiration for the song. Puh! Shows what I know! 

I have always been particularly fond of Morning Morgantown. Joni’s lyrics paint vivid images of a 1960's American town at the beginning of its day. Sleepy people ride around on buses, there are little cafes where you can pass time sipping "tea and lemonade", you might "wink at total strangers passing", and buy "a wooden bird with painted wings" (?!). Although Joni confesses she could be describing any town, "Morning any town you name, Morning's just the same", Morgantown is the one she chose to sing about and having not been alive to experience 1960's America, it's sounds like the kind of town that I think I would have liked to have woken up in back then. It's for this reason I’m not sure I'd ever be able to bring myself to visiting present day Morgantown. It’s not that I think there would be anything wrong with the town, I just wouldn't want to shatter the image of the place my mind wonders to whenever I listen to the song. Until today, Joni's Morgantown only had a population of about 500 people. Oh boy, I already know too much. See what I mean?

Morning Morgantown is the opening track on Joni Mitchell's third album Ladies of the Canyon (1970).


6 comments:

Saltwater said...

Thank you! Funny piece.

Emily English said...

I grew up waking up to my mother playing this every day... I always thought Joni was singing about San Francisco for some reason lol until Just Now, I had no idea this was a place, my childhood is forever changed! I too will make sure I never visit there lest my innocence drowns in a puddle of it's own tears.

Anonymous said...

Serving in the US Air Force in Germany, I used to play this song on sunny summer mornings while getting up and ready for work. The song painted such beautiful images in my mind and put me in such a happy mood I still love it today, some 45 years later. And for that reason I agree with the author. I don't want to visit the real Morgantown and have my memories altered.

chalky said...

Thanks for your comments. Isn't it great how a song can transport you? 5 years on and I still don't want to visit Morgantown, it's still that happy untouchable place.

doug denslowe said...

After reading the piece on Morgantown in West Virginia,I would have to say it sounds a lot like the Haight in the early 60's,before Time and Look magazine made it a tourist attraction that it never recovered from.Emily English,,you go right ahead and continue to fantasize about it being about San Francisco,in the days before it was "discovered" by the rich and made millionaires of all the kids who inherited houses their parents paid next to nothing for.The good old days of acid,incense and balloons............

doug denslowe said...

Is it fact or fiction Joni spent time at the University of West Virginia?I think it's become a story that gets more mileage each time a writer does a piece about the classic Joni Mitchell song Morning Morgantown.I could make up a name,and there's probably a city or town with that name.Does anyone have proof,even heard or read,besides the ones about the song,that Joni actually was even in West Virginia?I looked and looked and looked some more,no mention except here and in other articles about the song.If Gram mentioned it in his book,cool,but he doesn't.Oh well,go Morgantown Marlins.(See?I just made that up,but it has a ring of truth......)

 
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