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Baker's Dozen

Mercurial Rev: Richard Coles' Favourite Music
Alex Burrows , April 14th, 2021 08:57

Vicar, musician, broadcaster and ex-Communard, The Reverend Richard Coles tells Alex Burrows how music is still important to belief and why parish choirs are the new punk. Portrait by Tim Anderson.


Joni Mitchell – ‘Cactus Tree’
I love Joni. I fight with friends who think Bob Dylan is the greatest lyricist and songwriter of his generation. I think it’s Joni Mitchell. As I get older, I like her more and more. This is one of my favourites of her songs because it’s so of its moment; you listen to it and you are scampering around the west coast of America in the 1960s/70s. It’s really prescient. It’s a song about a woman making her own way through the world. There’s a steeliness about her which I really like, as well as the lyricism.

I didn’t discover Joni Mitchell until I got to London. I first heard her in my late teens. You know there are certain artists who you hear, and you think, ‘you’re speaking to me’? She was one of those artists for me. It’s not the only record in which you hear a woman singing about her own experience. That’s something I’ve always been interested in. If you grew up in that generation of gay lib that I did, then women finding their voices – and people not at the centre of things finding their voices – was a big thing for me. I think of Joni as a fellow traveller.