Hejira (album)

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Studio album by Joni Mitchell
Released November 1976
Recorded 1976
A&M Studios, Hollywood
Genre Folk jazz
Length 52:18
Label Asylum
Producer Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell chronology
The Hissing of Summer Lawns
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[1]
Pitchfork Media (8.0/10)[2]
Rolling Stone (positive)[3]
Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[4]
Robert Christgau B+ [5]
Martin C. Strong (9/10)[4]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[4]
Le Guide du CD GOLD[4]

Hejira is a 1976 folk/rock/jazz album by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. The album title is a transliteration of the Arabic word hijra, which means "journey", usually referring to the migration of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad (and his companions) from Mecca to Medina in 622. The songs on the album were largely written by Mitchell on a trip by car from Maine back to Los Angeles, California, with prominent imagery including highways, small towns and snow. The photographs of Mitchell on the front and back cover were taken by Norman Seeff and appear against a backdrop of Lake Mendota, in Madison, Wisconsin, after an ice storm.[6]

The album did not sell as well as its predecessors, although it still reached #13 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart and was certified Gold. Critically however, the album was generally well received and has since been recognized as one of the high-water marks in Mitchell's career.


Mitchell said of the album: "the whole 'Hejira' album was really inspired... I wrote the album while traveling cross-country by myself and there is this restless feeling throughout it... The sweet loneliness of solitary travel." [7]

Dominated by Mitchell's guitar and Jaco Pastorius's distinctive fretless bass, it drew on a range of influences but was more cohesive and accessible than some of her later more jazz-oriented work. "Coyote", "Amelia" and "Hejira" became concert staples shortly after Hejira's release, especially after being featured on the live album Shadows and Light, alongside "Furry Sings the Blues" and "Black Crow".

Though "Coyote" and "Black Crow" are fast-strummed folksy numbers, the rest of Hejira is slow and often languid, notably the epic "Song for Sharon", which deals with the conflict faced by a woman between freedom and marriage and which is interspersed with images of New York City including a trip to Mandolin Brothers in Staten Island. "Amelia" interweaves a story of a desert journey (the "hejira within the hejira"[8]) with the famous aviator Amelia Earhart who mysteriously vanished during a flight over the Pacific Ocean. Mitchell has commented on the origins of the song: "I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another... sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do." [7] The song, each verse of which ends with the refrain "Amelia, it was just a false alarm", repeatedly shifts between two keys, giving it a constant unsettled feeling.[9] "Refuge of the Roads" was written about a visit that Mitchell had made to the Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa.[10]

"Furry Sings the Blues" was inspired by a meeting that occurred between Mitchell and the blues guitarist and singer Furry Lewis in Memphis in 1976. Lewis was displeased with Mitchell's unauthorized use of his name and "hated" the song.[11][12] He told Rolling Stone in February 1977: "She shouldn't have used my name in no way, shape, form or faction without consultin' me 'bout it first. The woman came over here and I treated her right, just like I does everybody that comes over. She wanted to hear 'bout the old days, said it was for her own personal self, and I told it to her like it was, gave her straight oil from the can."[12]


Commercially, the album did not do as well as its two predecessors. Despite reaching #13 on the Billboard 200 pop album chart and being certified Gold, it failed to get significant airplay on commercial radio. Critically, the album was, however, generally received well, and it has since been recognized as one of the high-water marks in Mitchell's career.[citation needed]

In 1991, Rolling Stone cited the album's cover as the 11th greatest album cover up to that time.[13]

In 2000, German Spex magazine critics voted it the 55th greatest album of the 20th century, calling it "a self-confident, coolly elegant design".[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Joni Mitchell. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Coyote"   5:01
2. "Amelia"   6:01
3. "Furry Sings the Blues"   5:07
4. "A Strange Boy"   4:15
5. "Hejira"   6:42
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Song for Sharon"   8:40
7. "Black Crow"   4:22
8. "Blue Motel Room"   5:04
9. "Refuge of the Roads"   6:42


See also[edit]

(both sometimes transliterated as hijira or hejira)


  1. ^ Cleary, David (2011). "Hejira - Joni Mitchell | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  2. ^ Hopper, Jessica (November 9, 2012). "Joni Mitchell studio albums review". pitchfork.com. Retrieved March 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ Swartley, Ariel (2011). "Hejira by Joni Mitchell | Rolling Stone Music | Music Reviews". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Hejira". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  5. ^ Christgau, R. (2011). "Robert Christgau: CG: joni mitchell". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  6. ^ Doug Moe, "Joni Mitchell and Lake Mendota", The Capital Times, March 31, 2006.
  7. ^ a b "News Archive - Your link to SouthCoast Massachusetts and beyond". SouthCoastToday.com. 2012-02-14. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  8. ^ Rosenbaum, Ron (December 4, 2007), "The Best Joni Mitchell Song Ever", Slate 
  9. ^ Manoff, Tom, Joni Mitchell's Stylistic Journey, PBS 
  10. ^ Ehrlich, Dimitri (April 1991). "Joni Mitchell". Interview. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  11. ^ "newsobserver.com |On the Beat: David Menconi on music - Elvis forever and ever, amen". Blogsarchive.newsobserver.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  12. ^ a b Rolling Stone article: "Furry Lewis is Furious at Joni." February 24, 1977.
  13. ^ "Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Album Covers". Rate Your Music. 1991-11-14. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 

External links[edit]