|Single by Joni Mitchell|
|from the album Blue|
|B-side||"This Flight Tonight"|
|Joni Mitchell singles chronology|
The song is sometimes rumoured to be about fellow singer-songwriter James Taylor, who plays guitar on some Blue tracks (although not on "Carey" itself) and with whom Mitchell had a brief affair. However, Mitchell has stated publicly that the "Carey" in question was a memorable character named Cary Raditz (or "Carrot" Raditz), a cane-carrying chef with bright red hair that she met in Matala during her European odyssey of 1970. Other references to the village and the al fresco hippie lifestyle abound in the song lyrics, most notably to Matala's now-named Kymata/Waves Restaurant (called The Mermaid Café in the song). Mitchell frequently introduced live performances of "Carey" by recounting anecdotes about Raditz and their Cretan adventures.
Mitchell's European travels, which also encompassed France and Spain, were intended as a "time out" from her increasing fame and fortune in the music business. Whilst on the road, she learned to play the Appalachian dulcimer, which was to become a feature of her musical output in the following years. Her dulcimer skills were first showcased on Blue and in particular the original recording of "Carey", which also features Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills & Nash) on bass and acoustic guitar. "Carey" was released as a single, debuting at number 93 on the Billboard Chart on 4 September 1971 and lasting just one week; nevertheless, it remains one of Mitchell's most enduring and popular songs.
"Carey" appears on two Joni Mitchell greatest hits albums - Hits (1996) and Dreamland: The Very Best of Joni Mitchell (2004) - and has been covered by Cyndi Lauper, Goldie Hawn, Universal Honey, Sara Gazarek and Kiki Dee. Lauper's updated interpretation was regarded by many critics as the highlight of a televised Joni Mitchell tribute concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York on 6 April 2000.
Mitchell herself performs a different interpretation of Carey on her 1974 live album Miles of Aisles. Backed by jazz band Tom Scott & The LA Express, and recorded at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, this reggae/ska version has been criticised as "light-weight"; Rolling Stone went so far as to say that the song was "murdered".
In 1972, actress Goldie Hawn recorded her version of the song for her album Goldie (Warner MS 2061).
- Lyrics from jonimitchell.com
- Joni performs Carey at Wembley Arena, London 1983 on YouTube
- The Mermaid Café from the jonimitchell.com's lyrics glossary (did the Café exist?)
- Acoustic Guitar interview with Mitchell (includes discussion of learning the dulcimer in Greece)
- Miles of Aisles at Amazon.com (includes link to audio clip of "reggae" version)
- Cyndi Lauper's tribute performance on YouTube
- "Elect Kerry" song parody from Am I Right