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If

by

Joni Mitchell



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This is an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's poem If. Mitchell changed the last verse and updated the language.
Mitchell told Mojo Magazine February 2008 how this was one of the first songs she wrote after 9 years of feeling too demoralized by criticism to pen anything: "I have this piece of land (in British Columbia) that I return to in the summer. It's where I do most of my writing, where I restore my soul. I hadn't played an instrument in 9 years, 10 years, something like that and I just felt this rush of gratitude for the property. I would stand on my front porch of this tiny, 800-square foot house at night and the big dipper was all you would see. I was happy. I ran to the piano and the first piece on the album just poured out. I even called it Gratitude for a while. I started playing on the piano and in a short period of time I had 4 piano songs, but no words. Then a friend called and said he had just discovered the If poem by Kipling and I thought that would be good to set to music and that came easy. Usually I do the music first, which is harder. It was easy having the words first."
This features American jazz pianist Herbie Hancock on piano.
If was written by British writer Rudyard Kipling in 1895 and first appeared in print in his 1910 collection of short stories and poems, Rewards and Fairies. Kipling modeled his ideal on the character of the British colonial statesman Dr Jameson. In 1896 he led the Jameson Raid in South Africa in support of the non-Boer colonists there, in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government. Despite his failure, the British press considered Jameson to be a hero in the midst of a disaster. If was voted the nation's favorite poem in a 1995 poll of BBC listeners. Some consider it to be the world's most successful poem, having been translated into 27 languages.
Shine peaked at #14 on the US Billboard chart, Mitchell's highest position since her 1976 Hejira album, which peaked at #13.
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