Roberta Joan Anderson was born on November 7, 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada. Her parents, Bill and Myrtle (Her
father was a grocer, and her mother a schoolteacher), moved with their young daughter to North Battleford, Saskatchewan after
the end of World War II. When she was 9 years old, Joni and her family moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the "city of bridges,"
which Joni has since referred to as her hometown.
Inspired when her slightly older friend Frankie McKitrick, a piano prodigy, introduced her to classical composers like
Schubert and Mozart, Joni begged her parents to let her study the piano. Her piano lessons started at age seven, but lasted
all of a year and a half; It was a time when the "knuckle-rapping school" was in effect. Although Joni heard melodies in her
head that she wanted to get out, she felt stifled when her teacher asked her "why would you want to make up your own songs
when you can have the masters under your fingers?"
She also discovered early in her life that her drawing skills were much praised by her elders and peers. In fact, her main
sense of identity as she grew up was as the classroom artist.
At the age of 9, along with many other children at that time, Joni contracted polio. As she convalesced, she says she truly
developed an artistic sensitivity; "A great sorrow hath humanized me." Thanks mostly to her mother's loving attention, she
recovered from the often fatal disease, and returned to her life in Saskatoon.
Also at age 9, Joni started smoking cigarettes. I'll let her tell this-
"I started smoking at the age of nine. I had polio, and when I got out of the hospital, I kind of made a pact with my Christmas
tree, or maybe it was God, that if I could get my legs back... At that time I'd broken away from the church because I loved
stories, and they had a lot of loopholes, and, if you asked the teacher about those loopholes, like, O.K., Adam and Eve meet,
they're the first man and woman, and they have two sons: Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel, then Cain got married. Who did he
marry? It did not go over well. So I refused to go to church in the town for awhile. But I had this debt to pay back because
I did stand up, unfurl, and walk. So I joined the church choir and one night after choir practice, in the middle of the winter,
a girl had snitched a pack of Black Cat cork from her mother and we all sat in the wintery fish pond in the snow, and passed
them around. And you know, some girls choked and some threw up, and I took one puff and felt really smart! I mean I just thought,"Woah!".
My head cleared up. I seemed to see better and think better. So I was a smoker from that day on. Secretly, covertly, and I'm
In Grade 7, Joni met a teacher who would have a great effect on her direction. Mr. Kratzman was an Australian who taught
English at Queen Elizabeth school and the 12 year old Joni discovered him at the end of schoolyear while hanging her paintings
at school. Joni describes him this way: "he looked like Gable and Peck rolled into one, with gray sideburns", and he told
her: "If you can paint with a brush, you can paint with words." And this is what she's been doing ever since. The next year
in his class she wrote a poem about stallions and he circled the paper over and over with "cliche". He told her to write about
things she knew, and thus helped to mold her remarkable ability for imagery and description. In the credits for her first
album, Joni wrote: "This album is dedicated to Mr. Kratzman, who taught me to love words."
As a teen she listened to rock-n-roll radio broadcasts out of Texas. She bought herself a baritone ukelele for $36 because
she couldn't afford a guitar. She played at parties and get-togethers, and also hung out at a local coffeehouse in Saskatoon
called the Luis Real.
After high school, Joni enrolled in the Alberta College of Art in Calgary, but stayed only one year. She'd discovered a
club called The Depression in Calgary and become a regular performer there. She says:"My childhood longing mostly was to be
a painter, yet before I went to art college my mother said to me that my stick-to-it-iveness in certain things was never that
great, and she said you're going to get to art college and you're going to get distracted, you know. Yet all I wanted to do
was paint. When I got there, however, it seemed that a lot of the courses were meaningless to me and not particularly creative.
And so, at the end of the year I said to my mother :'I'm going to Toronto to be a folksinger.' And I fulfilled her prophecy."
Joan Anderson took piano lessons as a child in Saskatoon, and during her teenage years she taught herself to play the baritone
ukelele, and later the guitar, so that she could entertain at parties. In 1964 she began her professional musical career by
playing clubs and festivals around Canada. Her repertoire consisted mostly of standard folk songs, many recorded by her idol,
Judy Collins, until she began writing her own songs, starting with "Day After Day", which she wrote while on her way to the
Mariposa Folk Festival in 1965.
After leaving art-college in June 1964, Joni moved and settled in Toronto. She struggled to get into the music business
but couldn't afford the money to join the musician's union, and was unable to find many jobs without that membership. She
worked at Simpsons-Sears, and other department stores throughout the second half of 1964.
Joni also found out that she was pregnant by her college ex-boyfriend, and in February 1965 she gave birth to a baby girl.
Joni was now alone with a newborn baby and unable to find work. Joni kept this a secret for many years but she finally told
"Vogue" magazine in 1994: "I had had a child, and I was broke, literally penniless. And I met Chuck Mitchell, and he said
he would take us on. I was kind of railroaded...we were never suitable. I went down the aisle saying 'I can get out of this.'"
A few weeks after the birth, Joni married folk-singer Chuck Mitchell. He promised to help take responsibility for the child
but something changed, and a few weeks later Joni gave up her daughter for adoption.
In the summer of 1965, Chuck Mitchell took Joni with him to the U.S. to live and work in Detroit.
The marriage and partnership of Joan & Chuck Mitchell dissolved in a year and a half, and in early 1967 Joni Mitchell
moved to New York City to pursue her musical dreams as a solo artist. She played venues up and down the East Coast, including
Philadelphia, Boston, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and she built up a strong following as a live performer and a burgeoning
reputation as a songwriter.
Folk singer Tom Rush had met Joni in Toronto and was impressed with her songwriting ability. He took "The Urge For Going"
to Judy Collins but she was not sufficiently interested in the song at the time, so Tom recorded it himself. Then country
singer George Hamilton IV heard Tom performing it and recorded a hit country version. Other artists who recorded Mitchell
songs in the early years were Buffy Saint-Marie, Dave Von Ronk and eventually Judy Collins.
Due to the recording of her songs by others, she began to get more bookings in cities like Chicago and various towns in
Florida. But New York was a harder nut to crack.
While performing at a club in Florida, Joni met ex-Byrds member David Crosby, who was quite taken with her. David was
a great help in convincing the record company to agree to let Joni record a solo acoustic album without all the folk-rock
overdubs that were in vogue at the time.
His clout earned him a producer's credit in March 1968, when Reprise records released her debut album. She continued
her steady touring to promote the LP, and that stimulus, in addition to the performers who were covering her songs and exposing
her to bigger and bigger audiences as a major "songwriter," was causing a major buzz. At Elliot's suggestion, she moved to
southern California late in 1967, and moved in with David, who became an enthusiastic promoter of Joni's and had her play
at the homes of his Hollywood friends, where she got noticed by press and radio people, who in turn wrote and spoke of her
She played the Troubadour in L.A., getting raves from the crowds and critics; she was also a big hit in London at the
Royal Festival Hall in September, and at the Miami Pop Festival on the last weekend of 1968. Accompaning her at the fest was
Hollies singer-songwriter Graham Nash, whom Joni had met through their mutual friend, David Crosby.
Also in December of '68, Judy Collins version of "Both Sides Now" peaked in the national music charts top ten, and brought
Joni "lots of those little royalty pennies." This songwriting success helped create an eager anticipation for Joni's second
LP, "Clouds", which was released in April '69. It contained Joni's own versions of songs already recorded and being performed
by other artists; "Chelsea Morning,""Both Sides Now", and "Tin Angel."
She moved to Laurel Canyon, L.A. with Graham, purchasing a small house where they lived with "two cats in the yard..."
She made an appearance that summer on The Johnny Cash Show. The series was a U.S. summer replacement series that
rated very highly on ABC-TV. Joni appeared 2 more times on Johnny's show, once more later in the first season, and once in
Joni toured as the opening act for her friends Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and while at the Atlantic City Pop Festival
in August, she left the stage angrily due to the inattentiveness of the large crowd. She said she'd enjoyed the intimacy of
the clubs and was now finding it difficult to concentrate and perform in front of huge crowds.
Joni was scheduled to perform at Woodstock on Sunday of that weekend of love, but when the traffic jams were seen by
all of America on TV that Friday, her manager advised her not to go. He was concerned that she might have trouble getting
back to the city in time for a major TV appearance on the Dick Cavett Show that Monday. Still, she did create the definitive
chronicle of the festival with her song "Woodstock," which was a hit for C, S, & N the next year.
She did an equinox festival at Big Sur in September, and this was filmed and released as "Celebration At Big Sur" (Joni's
first film appearance). She was also set to do her "Songs To Aging Children Come" in the film version of Arlo Guthrie's song
epic, "Alice's Restaurant", but when the movie producers demanded a half share of the song's publishing rights just for the
privilege of appearing in their major Hollywood feature film, she refused. The song was sung in the film anyway by a look-a-like
hippie girl with long blonde hair and a ringing soprano.
Joni won the Grammy in March 1970 for Best Folk Performance of 1969 for her album,"Clouds."
Reprise released Joni's third album, "Ladies Of The Canyon" soon after. It was an instant smash on FM radio, and
sold briskly thru the summer and fall, eventually becoming Joni's first gold album (500,000 copies).
Reviewers and listeners began to note the confessional qualities in Joni's songs, and conjecture "who's that about?."
Joni made a decision to stop touring for a year and just live and write and paint, but after a few months she was persuaded
to perform at the last minute at the Isle of Wight Festival. Held in August, this festival became a financial and logistical
disaster, and the audience there had strong anti-performer feelings. When a stoned-out guy that Joni knew from her months
in Crete jumped on stage and took over her mic ranting about how "Desolation Row is this festival...", he had to be dragged
off stage. The crowd saw him as one of their own and booed his eviction until Joni chastised them tearfully about acting like
tourists and not giving the performers the respect they deserved.
In early 1970 Joni Mitchell decided to retire from performing, and she took time off to travel and reflect on the celebrity
that she'd sought and found, but hadn't enjoyed since the first flickers of fame had approached her with a gasp in their voices.
She performed at a few festivals in the summer of 1970, but did not take on a regular concert schedule for most of the year,
yet was still voted Top Female Performer for 1970 by MELODY MAKER, the U.K.'s leading pop music magazine.
Joni told writer Larry LaBlanc "In January I did my last concert. I played in London and I came home. In February I finished
up my record. I gave my last concert with the idea I'd take the year off, because I need new material. I need new things to
say in order to perform, so there's something in it for me. You just can't sing the same songs.
"I was being isolated, starting to feel like a bird in a gilded cage. I wasn't getting a chance to meet people. A certain
amount of success cuts you off in a lot of ways."
She traveled throughout Europe, visiting France, Spain, and Greece. On the ancient isle of Crete she took up the dulcimer
and rapidly wrote a series of songs dealing with her adventures, including "Carey" and "California".
On her songwriting she said "I do a lot of night-writing. I need solitude to write. I used to be able to write under almost
any condition but not anymore because I have to go inside myself so far, to search through a theme.
"First of all I'll write something down and then I think: 'Oh, I like how the words sound together but it doesn't say anything.'
When I finish a new song I take it and play it for my friends who are fine musicians and writers. I'm very impressed by their
reaction to it. If they like it, I'm knocked out. I guess I write for those people. They're really my audience."
In April, Joni was heard on background vocals on Carole King's masterpiece "TAPESTRY", and the next month she had a featured
appearance on James Taylor's album, "MUD SLIDE SLIM AND THE BLUE HORIZON", including the number 1 single "You've Got a Friend."
(written by Carole King).
The album, "BLUE" was released in June 1971, but it had nearly reached the record buying public in a quite different form.
The emotionally naked songs on "BLUE" were a result of Joni's wanting to shed the image of the hippie goddess she'd picked
up in the past, and to be appreciated for her true self. If she was going to get this kind of rapturous attention, she felt
that the reasons should be free of artifice. She says today that "At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses, so
there's hardly a dishonest note in the vocals."
"BLUE" was an almost instant critical and commercial success, and peaked in the top 20 in the Billboard Album charts in
Joni sold her house in Laurel Canyon, and purchased a piece of property by the water in British Columbia where she could
have the privacy and quiet that could never be found in Hollywood. She stayed with her friend, David Geffen, when she was
in L.A., and they became occasional roomates.
She made the decision to return to the stage after the great success of "Blue" and she presented many new songs on that
tour that would appear later in 1972 on "FOR THE ROSES." That LP was her first to incorporate orchestral arrangements into
her evolving folk-pop sound.
The U.S. tour with Jackson Browne carried on thru the spring, and in the summer before going to Europe for some performances,
Joni did a few benefits for Democratic presidential candidate, George McGovern.
Joni's 5th album, "FOR THE ROSES" was released in October 1972 and immediately zoomed up the charts. She followed with
the single, "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio", which peaked at #25 in the Billboard charts for two weeks beginning 2/3/73, becoming
her first bonafide hit single. The album was critically acclaimed with The New York Times saying "Each of Mitchell's songs
on "FOR THE ROSES" is a gem glistening with her elegant way with langauge, her pointed splashes of irony and her perfect shaping
of images. Never does Mitchell voice a thought or feeling commonly. She's a songwriter and singer of genius who can't help
but make us feel we are not alone."
Now that Joni had seen some success on her own terms, would she be willing to give the final push towards a more commercial
sound with the possible risk of not staying true to her muse?
Or perhaps she could do both?
Throughout 1973, Joni searched for musicians who could play her "weird chords" and understand her distinctive rhythms.
She had met multi-instrumentalist Tommy Scott in 1972 when she went to see him perform at the Baked Potato club. He played
woodwinds on the FOR THE ROSES album, and later Joni hooked up with him and his band, The L.A.Express, for her summer recording
sessions for what would become the album, COURT AND SPARK.
A single, "Raised On Robbery" was released right before Christmas 1973, and it both shocked and excited fans with it's
radically different sound.
In January 1974, the album, COURT AND SPARK, was released and was immediately greeted with open arms by both the public
and the critics. It seemed to her longtime fans that she had made an approach towards a more "pop" sound without compromising
her artistic ideals.
In March, the single "Help Me" was launched and became Joni's first and only Top 10 single. It peaked at #7 in the first
week of June.
The album went all the way to #2 on the BILLBOARD album charts and stayed there for 4 weeks.
It also rose to #2 in the Canadian charts, right behind Gordon Lightfoot.
In February 0f 74, her tour with the L.A.Express began, and they received rave notices as they traveled across the U.S.
and Canada during the next 2 months, before flying to London in April for a BBC-TV filming of her concert at the New Victoria
This tour was a huge undertaking with over 50 dates spread over a few months, and then a second part as the opener for
C, S, N, & Y on their summer stadium tour.
A series of shows at L.A.'s Universal Amphitheater from August 14-17 was recorded for a live album release.
In November, that live album called MILES OF AISLES, a 2 record set with all but 2 songs coming from the L.A. concerts.
A selection each from the Berkeley Community Center, on March 2nd, and the LA Music Center, on March 4th, were also included
in the set.
The album slowly moved up to #2, matching COURT AND SPARK's peak, but remained there for only 1 week. "Big Yellow Taxi",
the live version, was released as a single and did reasonably well. It seemed like all was golden for Joni in 1974.
The success of the album, the tour, and now the Grammy nominations with their added coup of being the only female in the
Album of the Year contest, must have been very gratifying for Mitchell and her team.
Oddsmakers were high on Joni winning the Best Pop Vocal, Female, but losing the other 2 major awards against strong competition.
In early March, the awards ceremony was telecast live, and when Olivia Newton John was announced as the Pop Female winner
for the treacly "I Honestly Love You", there were many audible gasps and a few boos from the audience. (The Grammys twenty
years ago were even more likely than now to reward easy listening hits like "Honestly" than more adventurous work like COURT
AND SPARK). Joni and Tom Scott's win for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals was read off a card with a bunch of other categories,
and she lost Album of the Year to Stevie Wonder, and Record of the Year to "I Honestly Love You".
In March, The L.A. Express released an album called TOM CAT which featured Joni's vocal on the cut, "Love Poem".
Joni went into the studio in the spring of 1975 to record acoustic demos of some songs she'd written since the tour
ended. These tapes included an early version of "Dreamland," a song that 2 years later would appear on the album DON JUAN'S
A few months later she recorded band versions of the tunes with most of the same musicians she employed on COURT AND SPARK.
This song cycle was released in November 1975 as the album THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS. The LP was a big seller and peaked
at #4 on the BILLBOARD album charts.
A memorable advert for the album was used in record stores.
Generally, the album was greeted less than enthusiastically. The fact that Joni had ceased being the confessional sin-eater,
and had turned her razor sharp observations outwards to society, was not what fans and critics expected or wanted from her.
This was probably the first time that an musical direction of Joni's had been questioned, and it really wounded her. She still
talks today of the sting she felt at those bad reviews. But in reality there were also quite a few good notices for the album.
Joni joined up with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review as it traveled thru North America, and she performed at a few shows
in late November and early December including stops in Boston and Toronto.
Before Christmas 1975, plans began for a tour to promote THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS, which was selling briskly. The L.A.Express
were grabbed up and convinced to embark on a second tour with Mitchell to begin in January 1976.
Joni started out 1976 preparing for her world tour with the L.A. Express. Reviews for THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS were
still coming out in newspapers and magazines, and Joni received an award from PLAYBOY's Readers Poll.
The tour began at The University of Minnesota on the 16th of January, and her performance inluded most of the HISSING tunes,
classic songs like "Big Yellow Taxi" and "For Free", the 2 new songs from the 1974 tour, "Jericho", and "Love Or Money", plus
4 new songs: 1. Furry Sings The Blues 2. Coyote 3. Don Juan's Reckless Daughter and 4. Talk to Me. (Note that #3 and #4 weren't
released on album until December 77). In Boston, she said, "The first of these songs was just coming to me as I passed thru
here in November (On Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue). It'a called "Coyote". The second one is the sequel called "Don
Juan's Reckless Daughter". And she then played them both as a linked pair. The tour continued throughout February in Northeast
cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and NEW YORK.
Joni broke up with John Guerin, the tour ended, and she hung out at Neil Young's house on the coast, wishing for new experiences
and feeling the need for more travel. Two friends arrived, and told her they were driving cross country to Maine to retrieve
the fellow's daughter who was living there with her grandmother. Joni decided that she would join them, the 3 of them left
in Joni's car, and after completing their mission, Joni drove back to California alone. It was the summer of America's Bi-cenntennial
celebration, and throughout the south there were all sorts of fetes and festivals happening. Joni says "This album was written
mostly while I was traveling in the car. That's why there were no piano songs..." These songs, along with 2 of the 4 new ones
she did live on the tour would appear on the next album she released, called HEJIRA* (*A journey especially when undertaken
to seek refuge away from a dangerous or undesirable environment).
Joni recorded HEJIRA in the summer of 1976, with many of the same musicians she'd used since 1973, but the sound she wanted
this time was more subdued and moody. She wanted music that echoed the sounds of the road songs she'd written. Many of the
songs on the album dealt with learning to be at peace with not having a family.
Joni had allowed Architectural Digest's photographers into her Bel Air home earlier in the year, and in July the issue
appeared on the newstands.
When she'd completed recording the 9 tracks that comprise the HEJIRA album, she was told by a friend about a bass player
she should hear who was creating a ruckus with his unusual playing style. Joni met Jaco Pastorious and immediately connected
with the way he played his bass. John Guerin told Joni, "God, you must love this guy, he almost never plays the root!" Joni
had been trying for years to find a certain sound on the bottom end of the bass, and Jaco's playing was a dream come true
for her music. She overdubbed his bass parts on 4 of the songs on HEJIRA, and the album was readied for release in late November.
On November 20th, Joni and Jaco finally performed together in Sacramento, Ca. at a Whales benefit hosted by then Governor
Jerry Brown. She performed a wonderful set with Bobbye Hall on congas joining Jaco on bass. Joni's solo acoustic encore of
"Song For Sharon" was a stunning triumph, and she returned later to sing back-up during Fred Neil's performance of his song,
The HEJIRA album was released on the 22nd of November.
Three days later on the 25th, she was one of the all-star guests at The Band's final show at Winterland in San Francisco,
along with Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and many others.
The album HEJIRA was greeted as a return to form for Mitchell by both fans and critics. She was once again apparently speaking
in a more personal sense about her own life. The album climbed to #13 on the Billboard charts and sold quickly through the
end of 1976 and the spring of 1977, reaching gold status 3 weeks after release.
"Coyote," backed with "Blue Motel Room" was released as a single, but failed to chart on the Hot 100 charts. The album
did receive a great deal of airplay from album oriented FM rock stations, as all her albums had since the late sixties.
In early January, Joni received one Grammy nomination as Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for the album THE HISSING OF
SUMMER LAWNS. (Note that Grammy eligibility ends Sept. 30th of each year.) In the same category was Natalie Cole for her album
NATALIE, Emmylou Harris for the track, "Here, There, and Everywhere", Linda Ronstadt for the album HASTEN DOWN THE WIND, and
Vicki Sue Robinson for her smash disco single, "Turn the Beat Around."
On February 19th, 1977, the Grammy Awards were presented and the Pop Female Grammy for 1976 went to Linda Ronstadt.
In the summer of 1977, Joni began work on what would be her first studio double album. She was close to completing her
contract with Asylum Records, and she felt that this album could be looser in feel than any album she'd done in the past.
Joni said, "This record followed on the tail of persecution, it's experimental, and it didn't really matter what I did, I
just had to fulfill my contract".
She had a bunch of songs left over from previous projects, and she collected them together with a couple of new songs,
and recorded them with most of the same personnal from the previous albums, plus new musicians like drummer Don Alias, and
saxophonist Wayne Shorter, whom she would continue to work with up until the current day.
Joni spoke to Anthony Fawcett in 1979 about working on the 17 minute track, "Paprika Plains." She said "The Improvisational,
the spontaneous aspect of this creative process-still as a poet-is to set words to the music, which is a hammer and chisel
process. Sometimes it flows, but a lot of times it's blocked by concept. And if you're writing free consciousness-which I
do once in a while just to remind myself that I can, you know, because I'm fitting little pieces of this puzzle together-the
end result must flow as if it was spoken for the first time."
The double LP and cassette, DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER, was released in December 1977.
Take a look at this ad for DON'S DAUGHTER, and gasp at the prices.
The album received mixed reviews, but still did relatively well on the Billboard charts peaking at #25, and going gold
within 3 months.
Also a few months after the release of DJRD, Joni was contacted by jazz great Charles Mingus, who had heard the orchestrated
song, "Paprika Plains," and thought that Joni had a lot of artistic courage and wanted her to work with him on a musical interpretation
of T.S.Eliot's "Four Quartets."
This collaboration with Mingus would bring about the biggest change in Joni's music and career so far.
April of 1978 was an eventful month. First up was the release of The Band's farewell concert on record and on film, called
"The Last Waltz." The film, directed by Martin Scorsese, was a critical hit and lauded as one of the very best ever live concert
films; and the album was also well received by radio, and debuted on the Billboard charts the last week of April, peaking
at #16. Other artists in "The Last Waltz" were Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and others. Of the 3 songs
Joni had performed at the concert back in November 1976, only "Coyote" made the cut. But it was a stunner!
Next Joni was contacted through convoluted channels by bass player, composer, and jazz great, Charles Mingus, who had been
introduced to her music by a friend of a friend. Mingus thought Mitchell was a gutsy artist with a sense of adventure, and
he wanted Joni to consider working with him on an adaption of T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets" He wanted her to edit down the
text, and he'd write a score for full orchestra, bass and guitar, and alternate her singing with a narrator reading excerpts
from the text. Joni thought the idea was quite original, but after reading Eliot's work, she nixed the project, saying that
she'd much rather condense the Bible. A few weeks later, Mingus called and told her he'd written six melodies especially for
her, and he wanted her to write lyrics to the tunes he'd named "Joni I-VI".
Joni had never worked musically FOR someone else before, but she accepted the challenge, and flew to NYC where Mingus had
a home, residing at the Regency Hotel the weeks that she spent in the city. Mingus had the disease known as Lou Gehrig's disease
(emyotropic lateral sclerosis), and was in a wheelchair by the time that he and Joni met. In downbeat, she says of
their first meeting, "I went out to visit him, and I liked him immediately. He was devilishly challenging...I never knew him
when he was well, and I never heard him play; he was paralyzed then."
Joni and Charles had decided that they should add 2 songs from his portfolio to the 6 he'd written just for Joni, and one
of these was perhaps his most famous composition, "Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat". (Joni had a writer's block on that one for three
months until she had an encounter in N.Y.C. with drummer Don Alias where they came up from the subway and saw a bar named
"Pork Pie Hat Bar").
In New York City, Mingus and Mitchell got together for long afternoon visits to discuss the music, and later she travelled
to Mexico with him and his wife, Sue, to visit some faith healers whom Charles felt could help him with his medical condition.
Joni drove back alone from Mexico, and decided to stop and visit legendary New Mexico based painter Georgia O'Keefe. Joni
and a girlfriend had attempted to drop in on O'Keefe the previous year, but had chickened out at the last minute. This time
Joni followed through and was welcomed by Georgia and her companion/attendent, Juan Hamilton. Joni stayed for five days, and
one evening over dinner, Georgia said she'd had some desire in her youth to be a musician, but she'd felt that one should
concentrate on a single creative area, so she'd chosen painting. She told Joni, "You can't have it all." Joni replied "Yes,
you can. I have my painting AND my music." And Georgia leaned across the table and said 'Oh, really!" And one could imagine
her there in her 90's starting a new career in the music field.
Joni premiered a couple of the songs she'd been working on at the annual Bread & Roses Festival in the SF Bay Area
in September. She sang an acapella version of "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines" (then called "Fool's Paradise"), was joined
by Herbie Hancock on keyboards for "Chair in the Sky" and "Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat", and then sang a song she'd had hanging
around for a year or so called "The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey." She utilized a tape of wolf sounds she'd come across that
weekend as a background for her guitar and vocal version of the L.A. highlife song.
Mingus died in January 1979 before the album was finished, but he'd heard all but 1 of the lyrics that Joni had written
for his melodies. This last song, "God Must Be a Boogie Man," was written by Joni after reading the first four pages of Mingus'
autobiography, "Beneath the Underdog." Joni continued working on the songs, finally coming up with sets of lyrics for 3 of
the 6 melodies he wrote for her, plus "Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat." These 4 collaborations, plus her originals "The Wolf That Lives
in Lindsey" and "God Must Be a Boogie Man" completed the album, and Joni included as links between the songs, bits of tapes
of Charles talking about his life that Sue Mingus gave her after Charles died.
She told downbeat, "the four (songs) that I did. complete were all inspired: either I stumbled across pieces
of poetry on the street, or they came to me in mysterious ways-they were meant to be." After trying sessions with various
musicians, including some of Mingus' favorites, she decided on an electric-based band although Mingus had preferred acoustic
instruments. The final band was Herbie Hancock (keyboards), Wayne Shorter (saxaphone), Don Alias (percussion), Peter Erskine
(drums), and Jaco Pastorious (bass). The album was scheduled for release in early June.
During the month and a half between her finishing the final mix for the album and it's release, she gave a series of interviews
to magazines like "downbeat" and "Rolling Stone," (her first interview with this music mag since the early 70's when they
facetiously printed a branch tree showing her connections in the music industry and implying whom she'd slept with.)
In early May, she joined a group of musicians performing in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. at an all-day benefit
concert against the reckless use of nuclear energy.
NO NUKES 1979
About a week before the album came out, Joni joined with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Don Alias, and Jaco Pastorious
at the UC Jazz Festival in Berkeley, Ca. This show was the real premiere of the completed Mingus songs. The performance, although
short (40 minutes), allowed loose jazz improvisations on the new MINGUS songs and a couple of older songs, including "Black
Crow," and "Coyote."
Also in May came the completion of a coffee table book of paintings and drawings from 6 Pop Stars including Joni. Put together
by Debbie Chesher, the book contains 43 paintings and drawings created by Joni between 1968-78. There are also descriptions
by Joni of the paintings and the process of their creation. This has become a very rare find, I don't even have my own copy,
so if anyone has an extra for sale, let me know. 8-)
Joni headlined the Playboy Jazz Fest at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A. on June 15, playing with the same line-up as at UC Jazz
in late May, except that bassist Gene Perla substituted for the ailing Jaco Pastorious.
The album MINGUS was released in June to a relatively positive response, but no airplay from either jazz stations or the
pop/rock stations that had supported Joni's music in the past. Topping out at #17 on the Billboard album charts, which was
a higher placement then her last LP, DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER, MINGUS still fell short of gold status, her first album
since the 60's to not sell at least a half-million copies.
Joni's summer tour to promote MINGUS began on August 3 in Oklahoma City and concluded 6 weeks later with five shows at
the Greek Theater in L.A. where she recorded and filmed the concerts.
Other cities on her tour included
NEW YORK and 2 nights in SAN FRANCISCO
When the tour ended, Joni began a year of work turning the tapes from the L.A shows into a 2 album set AND a concert film,
both to be called SHADOWS & LIGHT. This would be her final release on Asylum Records and her second live double-album.
It was released in September 1980, and made it up to #38 on the Billboard charts. A single from the LP, "Why Do Fools Fall
in Love?", Joni's duet with The Persuasions (her opening act for the tour), bubbled under on Billboard, just missing the Hot
100. The film premiered first on cable in December 1980, and was released on video and laserdisc early the following year.
Joni scheduled herself to perform during B.B.King's set at the annual Bread & Roses Festival in October, 1980. During
the day, she also dropped in during a set change for an impromptu duet with Joan Baez, on the Baez tune, "Dida."
B.B. surprised Joni by calling her out to sing with him on his signature tune, "The Thrill is Gone." She valiantly struggled
through a tune she didn't truly know, and then sang a couple of songs (including one called "Man To Man") from what would
be her "return to pop" album, and next release, WILD THINGS RUN FAST.
After spending a few weeks writing a script, choosing the soundtrack, and preparing for her film acting debut, Joni went
to Toronto in December 1980 to film her segment as part of a film anthology called "Love". The 9 stories in the movie were
all written by women, and they each concerned themselves with the stated subject of love in its many forms. Others involved
in the film in addition to Joni were Edna O'Brien, Lady Antonia Fraser, Penelope Gilliatt, Gale Greene, Nancy Dowd, Liv Ullmann,
and Mai Zetterling, who directed her own segment, Edna O'Brien's, and Joni's.
Joni's 14 1/2 minute vignette presented her as a black male pimp named "ART NOUVEAU", dressed in the same drag she wore on the cover of 1977's "DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER". Joni originally came up with this
character when she had to create a persona for a Halloween party. The soundtrack she chose for herself was mostly Miles Davis
music, as she told her hometown paper at the start of the project: "My vision of the relationship between the soundtrack and
the visuals is very precise. The character I play, for instance, is a Miles Davis fan, and he carries the soundtrack around
with him on a big portable cassette player".
Joni also contributed the title song "Love", played over the opening credits, which she wrote setting the words of a poem
from Corinthians to her music.
The film's producers kept extending the release date further and further, a year, then 2 years. As late as 1985 there were
still rumblings about a release, but as far as I'm aware, the completed film has never to this day had even one showing in
theaters. I have had word of "Love" being shown during small film festival weekends.
At a ceremony in Toronto's O'Keefe Center on February 5, 1981 Joni was in competition for a Juno Award as Canada's Best
Female Vocalist, which she lost to Anne Murray. But Joni was also inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and presenting
the award to her was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In her acceptance speech she remarked that receiving a Hall of Fame accolade
like this one made her feel like hockey champion Boom Boom Geoffrion
Soon after receiving her Juno Hall of Fame award Joni left Toronto, and flew to the Caribbean for a six week vacation/writing
With Joni out of the country, a rumor appeared in the press that she was recording with David Byrne of the Talking Heads
when in fact they'd never met, and had no plans to collaborate.
What she was doing was visiting friends, writing songs, and painting prolifically. Rolling Stone magazine reported that
she visited film director Perry Henzell, who was well-known as director of "The Harder They Come", starring reggae singer
While visiting Henzell, she painted a large mural on one entire wall of a room in his house. The painting was going well.
She found various colors of paint around the house but needed some yellow and couldn't find any, so she drove forty miles
to the nearest shopping area. Arriving there, she found that it was a local holiday and the stores were closed, but she spotted
an old man painting curbs with yellow paint and persuaded him to sell her some of it. Unfortunately, the only means she had
of transporting the paint back to where she was staying was inside half a coconut shell sitting in a cardboard champagne bucket.
By the time she had driven the 40 miles back, she found that all the yellow paint had splashed out of the cocunut shell and
into the cardboard bucket, which leaked, leaving only a few teaspoonfuls. Joni said, "That paint was like gold. But I finished
the mural. It was that intense and that magical".
Joni was also in the islands to get the feel of the music. Reggae was playing everywhere she went, and when she visited
a local disco 3 or 4 times a week to dance, she heard the popular songs of the day. This was where she was introduced to the
pop-rock polyrhythm music of groups like Steely Dan, Talking Heads, and especially the Police. She fell in love with their
music, and was so impressed with the song "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", with its shifting rhythms, (She said, "My feet loved
that record"), that when she got back from the islands she contacted Sting and the boys and asked them to record with her.
They were busy mixing in Montreal at the time, and she was busy in L. A., so the collaboration regrettably never happened.
Joni told Musician magazine about her admiration for the Police: "Their rhythmic hybrids, and the positioning of the drums,
and the sound of the drums, was one of the main calls out to me to make a more rhythmic album".
Once back in the states, Joni began looking for musicians who could capture the polyrhythms she'd heard and help her match
them to new melodies she'd written while on her working vacation to the Caribbean.
Joni had lost her radio airplay with the MINGUS album. Programmers with little imagination didn't know what niche to put
her in. Was she a jazzer, a folkie, a pop singer, a rock singer, or what? Partially because of that fact these new songs were
intended to be more accessible and appealing to the mainstream. She spent a couple of weeks alone in New York City, painting
and trying to come up with a few new uptempo pop tunes by strapping on the guitar and dancing around her loft.
Joni told Musician magazine: "With the MINGUS project, nobody was anchoring the music, everything was floating all around,
and I was playing around with structure. At a certain point, I began to crave order again".
For a year and a half, Joni worked meticulously on the tracks, recording some of them 4 times with various musicians until
finally finding the right rhythm section in a drummer named Vinnie Colaiuta, and in a bass player named Larry Klein (southern
California born and bred), who was also a sound engineer.
In Klein, Joni also found a kindred soul, a friend and a lover. Their relationship began to flourish with conversations
conducted while playing the pinball machines at A & M studios where they were recording the album "WILD THINGS RUN FAST".
Joni told Musician magazine: "Larry and I listened to a lot of fads and we tempered them...Larry is a "sounds" man. His
ear hears certain things and he'll point them out to me. So a lot of (the sound of the album) has to do with Larry's input.
Credit where credit is due." Joni dedicated the album with this message: "Special thanks to Larry Klein for caring about and
fussing over this record along with me".
John Guerin played drums on 4 cuts on the album. Vinnie Colaiuta performed on the remaining 7. Russell Ferrante and Larry
Williams each played synths on a few cuts during the sessions. Steve Lukather of Toto fame soloed on electric guitar on 4
songs, Mike Landau on 4 others, and Larry Carlton played on 1. Wayne Shorter also added his memorable sax lines to 3 tunes.
Guest vocalists on the album included Lionel Richie, who was featured on a couple of prominent solo lines, Kenny Rankin, Charles
Valentino and James Taylor.
In late summer 1982, with the recording sessions finished, Joni was photographed over a period of a few weeks by Israeli
born photographer Moshe Brakha. None of the resulting shots made it to the album cover as originally intended, but one photo
taken in Joni's Bel Air home was used as the cover of the album's first single, "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care".
While the album was being readied for release, Joni's friend David Geffen, founder of Asylum Records, decided to start
a new label, Geffen Records. As one of his premiere artists, he wanted his old friend and client Joni Mitchell. However, Joni
still owed Asylum one record on her contract, and up thru the fall of '82, a new album from her was on their release lists.
But when "Wild Things Run Fast" was finally shipped to record stores in late October, it was, indeed, on the new Geffen Records
label. It appears that Geffen's power and influence was able to negate the remaining obligation Joni had with Asylum. Other
artists who went with Geffen to his new label were Elton John, Donna Summer, super-group Asia, and later Don Henley.
On November 21, 1982, Joni and Larry Klein married in a ceremony performed at the Malibu home of her manager, Elliot Roberts.
The album was greeted by critics as a return to pop with its crisp sound and fastidiously produced tracks, and some positively
peppy tunes like "Solid Love", "Underneath the Streetlights", and "You Dream Flat Tires".
The album, unfortunately, peaked on the Billboard charts in it's 5th week at only #25, and the single, Joni's remake of
the Elvis chestnut "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care", climbed as high as #47, merely threatening to become a hit single.
(Radio walls continued to be solid rock).
One night that winter, Joni visited her old friend, folk musician Eric Anderson, and jammed with him after his gig at the
renowned McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California.
As 1983 began, Joni was still doing promo chores for the new album, and in February she held a series of rehearsals culminating
in a night at A & M Studios, Hollywood, where the show was videotaped for use as live performance videos that would hopefully
be played on MTV and other early video channels. I've seen 3 of these performances taped from airings on a Canadian video
channel: "Chinese Cafe", "You Dream Flat Tires", and "Underneath the Streetlights".
Joni then began the most far flung and lengthy tour she'd ever undertaken. She started in Osaka, Japan on the 4th of March,
and continued on to Tokyo on the 6th and 7th (these two shows were recorded for a later FM broadcast in Japan). Refuge then
flew to Australia and on the 22nd performed at the beautiful Sydney Opera House. Then to Ireland and the U.K., where their
gig at LONDON'S WEMBLEY ARENA on the 24th was taped for a truncated broadcast on radio, and also filmed for a 60 minute BBC concert special.
Two days later, they were in Brussels, Belgium (also a radio broadcast), and then, all in one week, they played Paris,
France; Frankfurt, Germany; and Milano, Italy. After that, a leap thru Scandinavia where they performed in Stockholm on the
12th of May, and Copenhagen, Denmark on the 15th.
Then Joni and Refuge headed back to the U.S. for a well deserved months vacation.
In mid-June, the second segment of the tour started. The group performed at Red Rocks in Colorado on the 10th, outside
San Francisco in CONCORD, CALIFORNIA on the 12th, the Universal Ampitheater in the L.A. area on the 14th, and then cross country thru the U.S. towards the East
Coast, hitting Norman, Oklahoma on the 29th, Detroit on July 4th, Columbus on the 9th, Pittsburgh on the 10th, TORONTO on the 12th, and NEW JERSEY on the 16th. When Refuge did an afternoon outdoor show in Boston on the 20th, Joni got some bad press for walking offstage
five times during the show. Whether her frustration resulted from malfunctioning equipment, or from the audience being too
noisy, in reality it was a combination of the show being a rare one for Joni in the daytime, the crowd's natural rowdiness
adding distraction, and the disappointing fact that this concert was at the end of a long, grueling tour played in venues
that were mostly only about 2/3 full. The tour played out it's final date in late July.
Joni later claimed that after all her musicians and expenses were paid, she grossed a grand total of only $35,000 from
the entire world tour. That fact is IMHO probably the main reason why she hasn't toured since 1983.
As 1984 began, Joni & Larry were hard at work on a film of the 1983 tour, which intertwined live in-studio performances
with splices of homemovies shot by the couple, and bits from films like the Luis Bunuel directed "Viridiana", "Koyaanisqatsi"
(with it's fast-motion cityscape scenes), and the Michael Wadleigh rock festival epic "Woodstock".
Their film was released on Pioneer Artists LaserDisc as "Refuge of the Roads" in the fall of 1984. It was not available
in the VHS format until early in 1989.
Joni's art continued to flourish, and twice during 1984 she had an exhibit of her canvases at Kamikaze, a combination cafe
and gallery located in New York City.
As 1984 ended, Joni was writing new songs, and Larry was taking lessons on the Fairlight synthesizer. They'd had a suggestion
from Geffen that perhaps an outside producer with experience in the modern technical arenas they wanted to explore might be
a worthy addition. They approached synth wizard Thomas Dolby, who had recorded a version of Joni's song "The Jungle Line"
as a B-side, and he was excited to join them in working on tracks for Joni's next album...
In late 1984, Geffen Records wanted to hire synthesizer-wizard
Thomas Dolby of "She Blinded Me With Science" fame as co-producer on the tracks that Joni and Larry Klein had been working
on. Joni had written some angry songs and Larry and she were experimenting to get the right colors on modern machinery like
their FAIRLIGHT CMI synthesizer. Joni told Digital Audio magazine: "Larry and I knew the sounds we were after, but it took
us a long time to find them. Thomas was hired in that capacity...as a colorist and a player."
Joni did not want someone else re-decorating her music, so she
agreed to hire Dolby only as a guide to the modern programming techniques that she and Larry were still learning.
Joni told the U.K's New Musical Express: "I was reluctant when
Thomas was suggested because he had been asked to produce the record (by Geffen), and would he consider coming in as just
a programmer and a player? So on that level we did have some problems." She also said about the collaboration with Dolby:
"He may be able to do it faster. He may be able to do it better, but the fact is that it then wouldn't really be my music."
Following the recording of the mega all-star single "We Are The
World" at the end of January 1985, Columbia Records wanted an albums worth of superstar songs for an April release date. Canada's
contribution, a song called "Tears Are Not Enough," was recorded mostly on Feb. 10, 1985 and Joni, who had been in the studio
starting work on her next album, flew in to Toronto to contribute her vocal lines along with the likes of Neil Young, Gordon
Lightfoot, and Bryan Adams (who wrote the words with his longtime partner Jim Vallance). The music had been written a day
proir by David Foster.
Joni spoke to writer Iain Blair about her Northern Lights For Africa
experience. She said: "I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was literally starving when we did the session 'cuz my yoga teacher
had sent me to a psychic dietician who, while rubbing her chin and swinging her arm around in a circle, had diagnosed a lot
of food allergies. The result was, predictably, that I was hardly allowed to eat anything, so by the time I arrived with an
apple and a rice patty, my poor stomach was making all these strange noises. Then we get in the studio, and the engineer says
he can't record 'cuz he's picking up some weird rumbling sound coming from my direction. (She laughs). And it was all pretty
ironic, considering the subject matter."
The song "Ethiopia" was written after the "We Are The World" album
had been recorded, and in response to the songs on that album. Joni felt that the tunes were all from the point of view of
the stars with their "We Can Change The World" themes, so she wrote "Ethiopia" from the point of view of an Ethiopian who
was going thru the famine. The song also pointed out how any country could succumb to the same misfortunes.
At the Grammy Awards show on February 22, 1985, Joni and Dionne
Warwick presented the final Grammy of the evening for Album of the Year to Lionel Richie for his mega-hit collection "Can't
In early 1985, Joni also split with her longtime manager Elliot
Roberts, saying he was the one who needed a manager; they still remained friends. After a few weeks of trying to manage herself,
Joni hired on with Peter Asher Management.
Joni, Larry, Thomas Dolby, and engineer Mike Shipley recorded and
programmed for more than 7 months from February thru September until they felt that the tracks were ready for release. Since
Joni is a night owl, the sessions were mostly wee-hour events with Larry assisting. Larry would then work on adding his bass
lines to saxophonist Wayne Shorter's solo album each afternoon.
Two songs: "Fiction" and "Tax Free," were Larry's instrumentals
for which Joni wrote words and music. His rhythm tracks caused her melody lines to come out in shorter phrases.
The use of modern technological machines, such as the FAIRLIGHT
CMI and various drum machines caused the DOG EAT DOG album to be Joni's most expensive record to date.
When the album credits were printed for the album, Thomas Dolby
was listed as a producer on most of the tracks on DOG EAT DOG, even though had Joni hired him only as a guide and an assistant.
I suppose that his agreement with Geffen required this credit.
Some of the other musicians credited on DOG EAT DOG were Mike Landau
on guitars, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and drum samples, Michael Fisher on percussion samples, Zyg Winard and Dan Marnien as
engineering assistants, and Mike Shipley as engineer and co-producer.
Joni and Larry had a traffic accident on the Pacific Coast Highway
in the summer of 1985 that they were lucky to survive when a drunk driver jumped the meridian and hit their car. Joni attributes
their survival in good condition to the size of the automobile they were driving. "It was like a tank," Joni said.
In early September, Joni became part of a controversy and was treated
unfairly by the press in Canada's B.C. provence. On what is called The Sunshine Coast near Vancouver, where Joni has had a
house and property since the early 70's, a salmon fishing company had begun to build a huge $2 million plant. The other property
owners, Joni's neighbors, asked her to join a protest aginst this enterprise that they believed could destroy the natural
state of affairs in the area. Joni spoke to the press from her home in L.A. and said: "I thought I'd purchased a piece of
wilderness, but it's being corrupted by industry." The Alberta Report newspaper took the side of the hatchery reporting that
it would bring hundreds of jobs to the population who was heavily unemployed, and they claimed that Joni was not really a
current resident and was rarely even in B.C. The salmon company complained that this was a case of a Hollywood celebrity trying
to smear an honest fish business. I don't know exactly how this affair was settled, but at the price of sounding cynical,
I'd bet that today there's a batch of hatcheries on the Sunshine Coast.
The Farm Aid concert was held on September 22, 1985 in Champaign, Illinois. Joni volunteered to perform
at the benefit partly because her mother had grown up on a farm in Saskatchewan and Joni had always fancied herself settling
down on a farm in her later years
The DOG EAT DOG release party was presented as a benefit for the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was held
at the James Corcoran Gallery in Los Angeles in October 1985, billed as: "Joni Mitchell, New Paintings New Songs", featuring
a gallery full of large collage paintings done in her new abstract expressionism style. The new album played on a continuous
loop throughout the gallery all evening long.
Joni spoke that evening to Alan Jackson, a writer for Britain's
New Musical Express, about the new album and it's angry tone. She said: "I'm a witness to my times. We're all only a hairline
and a few laws from incredible censorship. They're already trying to censor rock'n'roll. One of the reasons this album is
so outspoken in the context of my work is that I think it's a case of use it or lose it."
This event got huge coverage from MTV, ET, Japanese TV, and many
newspapers because it had a celebrity attendance that ensured notice. From Jack Nicholson to James Taylor to Christopher Cross
to Sheena Easton, the list went on and on. The party was considered a huge success. Jack Nicholson told a writer that night:
"It's very easy to repeat past successes. Joni hasn't done it, and that takes a lot of strength. Another thing I like about
her is that she kind of dresses up cute. When she goes out, she makes an effort. She's a sweetie!"
The video for the first single "Good Friends" premiered on MTV
on November 27, 1985. It was directed by Jim Blaschfield, who had found fame with his video for the Talking Heads "And She
Was," by inserting color xerox images that move independently within the live action. The premiere of "Good Friends" was announced
with some fanfare by MTV VJ Mark Goodman: "Joni Mitchell-at last!", but the video received only light airplay for the next
In December, Joni & Larry continued the promotional junket
in the U.K., doing Capitol Radio's "Rock Master Class" in front of a packed house at the Duke of Yorks Theatre in London.
Joni talked, answered questions, and sang 3 songs including lovely solo-piano versions of "Dog Eat Dog" and "Impossible Dreamer,"
and a guitar take of "The Three Great Stimulants" with Larry in the background noodling around on the piano. Joni also improvised
a piano instrumental tune for the rapt crowd of devoted Brits.
The critical response to DOG EAT DOG was mostly negative. Not surprisingly,
the album turned out to be only a moderate seller, charting at #63 on Billboard's Top Albums chart. This was Joni's lowest
chart position since her first album peaked at #189 almost 18 years before.
The video for James Taylor's new single "You Are My Only One" premiered
on VH-1 in January 1986. In the film, Joni and Don Henley lip-synched to the background vocal tracks they'd recorded back
in the summer of the previous year.
Also in January, Joni visited New York City and was a guest on
Pete Fornatale's show "Mixed Bag," a well-respected series originating on New York radio station WNEW-FM. The retrospective
approach used with Joni resulted in a three-hour program of album cuts and Joni's recollections on the songs, closing with
a live performance of "The 3 Great Stimulants."
MTV reported in January that Joni had just recorded back-up vocals
on Daryl Hall's new solo album, with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics producing. The song was called "Right As Rain," and it didn't
appear on album until more than 2 years later.
Plans for a six month tour to start in the summer of 1986 were
squelched when DOG EAT DOG was received with disappointment by most record buyers and sold poorly. Joni also didn't particularly
want a rehash of the taxing tour of 1983, and preferred to stay home and paint.
In early 1986 Larry was hired to play bass on 2 songs on Peter
Gabriel's album "So," and to produce the first solo album from the Car's sideman Ben Orr. Joni went along with him when he
traveled for an extended working-visit to the U.K. Peter's studio in Bath was called Ashcombe House, and since he had mostly
finished his album, he offered Joni and Larry the use of his studio if they wanted to record. They did, of course, and the
result was the beautiful track "My Secret Place" featuring a duet of Joni and Peter. Joni told Musician magazine about this
song: "It's a love beginning song. The song's about the threshold of intimacy. It's a shared thing so I wanted it to be like
the Song of Soloman, where you can't tell what gender it is. It's the uniting spirit of two people at the beginning of a relationship."
Peter's studio was directly in the takeoff path of planes from
the U.S. Air Force base nearby. Seeing the planes fly off in formation triggered a memory song from Joni about an encounter
she'd had back in the late '60's with an embittered Vietnam vet named Killer Kyle. The song was named "The Beat of Black Wings"
and contains the line "...like a chalk mark in a rain storm", which would become the title of her next album.
At the Amnesty International Benefit "Conspiracy of Hope" held
at Giants Stadium in New Jersey on June 15,1986, Joni was sandwiched in between Bryan Adams and U-2. The unruly crowd had
been in the stadium for more than 6 hours when she went on. By then, they weren't very receptive to Joni's slow and plaintive
song "The 3 Great Stimulants." At one point someone from the crowd tossed something onstage and it hit Joni's water glass
causing the liquid to splash in front of her as the camera caught her blinking at the sudden trail of water. Before singing
her next song, Joni chastised the crowd by saying "Save the bombs for later. I'm not that bad, you dig? Quit pitching shit
Joni says of this show: "I was asked to go on at the last minute,
so we rehearsed backstage with borrowed equipment and went on and did 3 songs, and people threw things at me."
Another in a series of tiresome year-end awards from Rolling Stone
came to Joni for her Amnesty show: Worst Performance of the Year.
In the summer of 1986, Joni released a U.K. only 12" single release
of a very clever and fun remix of the track "Shiny Toys."
On Thursday 8/28/86, Joni joined other musicians such as Neil Young
and Warren Zevon in a "Get Tough On Toxics" concert at Long Beach Arena. The show was a benefit for two propositions on the
ballot that fall: Prop 65, which was an anti-toxic waste initiative, and Prop U, which was an attempt to control building
development in the city of L.A. Joni played with a full band and performed a half dozen songs including "Cool Water," and
a still wordless version of "Lakota."
Also in August, the video for Joni's second single from DOG EAT
DOG premiered on VH-1. The track "Shiny Toys" was shot in black & white and mostly featured Joni lip-synching to the song
and dancing and mugging aound L.A.
In February 1987, Joni saw Billy Idol performing his song "To Be
A Lover" on the Grammy Awards show. She felt he captured the original spirit of rock'n'roll along with a new spark of energy,
and would be perfect for a cameo on her song "Dancin' Clown" as a character named Rowdy Yates. Billy came over to Joni's studio
one evening a few days after the Grammys and recorded his part, complete with yelps and howls. Joni told Macleans magazine
about this pairing up: "It was for the contrast he provided. It's a great little cameo for him, and he brings real life to
the part." Later, Tom Petty recorded his cameo on the same song as the shy boy named Jesse.
A Showtime series "Coast to Coast" hosted by Herbie Hancock premiered
on August 29. Joni was a guest on that first show for a jam session with Herbie, Bobby McFerrin, Wayne Shorter, David Sanborn,
and Larry. The 2 songs they jammed on were Joni's compositions "Furry Sing the Blues," and a pepped-up latin-flavored version
Jaco Pastorious, who had played on 4 of Joni's albums in the 1970's, died on 9/25/87 of injuries inflicted in a beating a few weeks earlier
outside a nightclub.
The "Free Leonard Peltier Benefit" at the Pacific Ampitheater in
Costa Mesa, Ca. held on October 28, 1987 featured Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Joni, and other socially-concious musicians.
Joni performed with a band that included Larry on bass and Wayne Shorter on saxophone, and premiered the song "Tax Free."
The $90,000 raised was to be used to finance a new trial for Peltier who'd been convicted of killing 2 FBI agents during a
politically charged dispute with Native American activists in the '70's.
In late 1987 Joni's favorite car, a Mercedes-Benz nicknamed "Bluebird"
was stolen. She deeply missed the vehicle: She'd purchased it with her very first royalty check in 1969, so the sentimental
value was great.
Rolling Stone had a 20th anniversary TV special which aired on
ABC on December 2, 1987, and Joni talked at a few points during the program. Also shown was a bit of rare footage of Joni
singing "Woodstock" on the Tom Jones Show in 1969.
The studio that would be called "The Kiva" was begun in very early
1988. It was built in what used to be the bedroom of Joni's Bel-Air house.
For the recordings on CHALK MARK IN A RAIN STORM, Joni and Larry
continued experimenting with synthesizers, drum machines, & sequencers as they had on DOG EAT DOG, but the results were
smoother and more listenable on these new tracks. Including their early sessions at Peter Gabriel's studio, they recorded
in 9 different studios for this album.
On CHALK MARK, Joni said told interviewer Kristine McKenna: "I've
discovered that with your focus no longer on finding a mate, you get a heightened sense of community, and I've become a bit
more political- not too political though."
The album contained 8 new songs and 2 remakes: "Cool Water," with
an appearance by Willie Nelson, and a recording from 1981 featuring Joni, Larry, and saxophonist Wayne Shorter called "A Bird
That Whistles" (an update of the old blues tune "Corrina Corrina").
Three songs on CHALK MARK were co-composed with Larry, including
two instrumentals, "Snakes And Ladders" and "Lakota," that he'd intended to give Robert Plant back in 1986. Plant had been
searching for new songs, and had actually wanted to record Joni's bluesy "Number One," which he felt was a "man's" song, but
Joni decided to keep the song for herself. Plant never did record any of either Joni's or Larry's compositions
Some of the musicians credited on CHALK MARK were Manu Katche on
drums, Steven Lindsey on organ, Michael Landau on guitar, Steve Stevens on lead guitar, and Wayne Shorter on saxophone. Guest
vocalists listed were Peter Gabriel, Ben Orr, Don Henley, Iron Eyes Cody, Wendy & Lisa, Billy Idol, Tom Petty, Julie Last,
and Willie Nelson.
CHALK MARK IN A RAIN STORM was readied for release in March of
1988, but a pre-release single was serviced to radio stations in January with Joni's duet with Don Henley on her song "Snakes
And Ladders." It received decent airplay on rock radio.
The official first single was "My Secret Place." It was released
in March and "bubbled under" for a few weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The video, a gorgeous black & white film
featuring Joni and Peter Gabriel, got a bit of video airplay on VH-1, where it premiered in May of 1988.
Larry Klein shot the photograph that was used as the cover of Joni's
15th album CHALK MARK IN A RAIN STORM.
Billboard magazine's Steve Gett reviewed the new album and awarded
it an early rave. Other reviews were mostly very favorable, and the fact that there were cameos by many well-known musicians
brought it a great deal of notice. The album easily bested DOG EAT DOG's chart position, peaking at a friendly #45 on the
Billboard Top Album chart.
Joni and Larry went on a promotion jaunt for the album, covering
big cities in the U.S. and Canada before going to the U.K. in the spring. While in England, Joni appeared on a music show
called "Wired" and performed solo guitar and vocal on the song "Number One" from CHALK MARK, and unveiled a new tune she'd
just written and never performed in public called "Night Ride Home."
On May 20th, Joni had a solo art exhibit at the Parco Gallery in
Toyko that coincided with the release there of CHALK MARK IN A RAIN STORM. This show was her first "for sale" art exhibition.
To promote the album, Joni also travelled to Australia in late
May, appearing on a few TV shows including "The Midday Show with Ray Martin," "Rock Arena" and a morning show called "Sunday"
where she performed "Number One" and "Night Ride Home."
Joni and Larry traveled to Italy in October 1988 so that she could accept a songwriters award from the
San Remo Song Festival. They performed a short set of live duets including "Night Ride Home," "Lakota," and a number from
her middle period, "Hejira." She also accepted a lovely guitar-shaped award from the officials in recognition of her years
of creative acheivement in songwriting.
A tour was planned and then canceled for the fall of 1988. The
simple touring quartet probably would've consisted of Joni on vocal and guitars, Larry on bass, Manu Katche on drums, plus
a second guitarist. Too bad we never got to see those shows.
In early January, Joni joined a "rainbow coalition" of famous folks
in the arts and politics and presented an N.A.A.C.P. "Presidents Award" to Jesse Jackson. The ceremony was taped and shown
around the country on a syndication basis.
In January 1989, the nominations for the 31st Annual Grammy Awards were announced and for the first time
in more than a decade, Joni received a nomination in the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female category.
On February 22, 1989 the Manhattan Transfer presented the Pop Female Grammy award, and sang a jazzy song
called "She's the Most" as an intro to their reading of the nominations. When they read Joni's name, and she appeared on screen
sitting in the sudience, it was a surprise to many because she usually didn't show for these types of events. Although she
was a sentimental favorite, the tailwind behind Tracy Chapman and her first single "Fast Car" was just too strong, and Joni
went home awardless. Ironically, Tracy was represented by Eliott Roberts, who was Joni's manager for 15 years from the beginning
of her recording career thru early 1985
In addition to his bass playing and co-production duties on Joni's albums, Larry produced Karen Peris'
group The Innocence Mission in mid 1989, and later in 1990, a new group named Indio
An all-star group gathered in Britain on March 5, 1989 to record
"The Spirit of the Forest" single, with proceeds going to the Earth Love Fund for the preservation of the Brazilian rainforests.
At the end of the month, recording on the single continued in New York City and it was there that Joni added her one line
about saving the birds and the monkeys. Some of the other musicians and singers involved in the project were Chris Rea,
XTC, Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, Olivia Newton-John, Thomas Dolby, and Kate Bush.
A video of "The Spirit of the Forest" was released to video outlets
on June 2 to coincide with United Nations Day.
On Saturday June 3rd, there was a worldwide broadcast of a U.N.
benefit show called "Our Common Future." The multi-hour show featured performances live from New York City interpersed with
short films about troubled areas around the world. Joni performed with Herbie Hancock, Larry, Wayne Shorter, and Andy Summers
(formally of the Police). They were billed on-screen as "Herbie Hancock's Super Band" and Joni was tagged as Joni Mitchell
Klein. Mrs. Klein and the super band's performance was joined in progress near the end of their first number "The 3 Great
Stimulants." Joni then got about halfway through the second number "Night Ride Home" when the producers cut away to commercials.
I think it was just a case of bad timing. If the network had gone on air from NYC at the beginning. of either of her
songs, there would have been enough time for her to finish.
In September on HBO, the Jim Henson muppet series "The Ghost of
Faffner Hall" featured Joni lip-synching to her newly-recorded studio version of the composition that would become the title
song of her next album, "Night Ride Home." She hinted that her newest recordings were a gentler and sparser collection of
songs, and said "It's kind of fun to hear it bared down again."
Throughout the first half of 1990 Joni and Larry recorded and worked on the songs that would appear on her next album.
The sound was stripped-down and more acoustic in execution than the heavily produced tracks done in the 1980's.
Joni spoke about a song she'd written called "Two Grey Rooms" : "I had a piano piece that I recorded in 1982. No melody
to it at that point and certainly no lyrics - just chord changes. After we tracked it, I was in "heart" mode and I overdubbed
a beautiful wordless melody on top of it. I called it "Speechless." Seven years later, I finally found a story to set to the
fledgling melody. (It was) about a fellow who was part of Fassbinder's scene, homosexual, aristocrat, German who had had a
lover in his youth that he never got over and now in his 40's he discovered the route by which this guy went to work. So he
moved into these crummy rooms overlooking the street for the sole pleasure of seeing the man walk by in the morning and walk
back in the evening."
In the spring, Joni received an invitation from Roger Waters.
When Joni and Larry went back to California, they finished up the basic tracks for the next album, then travelled by
car to Joni's birthplace in Fort McCloud, Alberta, continuing up thru the towns she'd grown up in, they made frequent stops
and took some wonderful strobe pictures of Joni, the landscape, and the barns and railroad stations of her youth.
On October 17, 1990 the L.A. Theater Center began previews of a revue type show that featured 5 singers (3 women and
2 men) performing the songs of Joni Mitchell with a five piece band. The most well known of the singers was 2 time Tony winner
Calling itself "The Joni Mitchell Project" the Jacques Brel style show was directed by David Schweizer and played for
three months at L.A.T.C. Joni's then manager Barry Krost was a member of the Theater Center board of trustees.
A few days after the official opening on November 1, 1990, Joni herself showed up for the show and was persuaded to
sing a new song.
Joni told Musician magazine about her visit to LATC: "I went to hear the Joni Mitchell Project, this revue that did
some of my songs. They called me up and I did "Cherokee Louise" a capella, dancing to keep the groove. I'm coming up on the
rape scene and I'm, like, highly mirthful. But it came off because people get feelings from it. Every time you sing it you
don't relive it."
The Joni Mitchell Project played for three months in Los Angeles. It was scheduled to open in the fall of 1991
at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in NYC, but I don't believe it ever made it.
Entertainment celebrities like k.d. lang had made it hip to do GAP ads but it was still a big surprise to me when early
one morning in late 1990 I saw Joni's ten foot tall picture in a glass case at a San Francisco subway station.
On December 10, 1990 Joni appeared at the Billboard Music Awards and presented the award for #1 World Single to Sinead
O'Conner for her smash hit version of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U."
Joni and Larry delivered the final mixes for the new album to Geffen just before Christmas, after trying nearly a hundred
different sequences for the songs.
She talked to the New York Times about her new collection: "My last few albums have been more symphonic and musically
expansive...This album is more intimate : the voice is forward and the acoustic guitar is the main instrument."
Joni and Larry went to an Eric Anderson concert at McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica in early 1991. Eric called Joni
on stage and she sang her back-up vocal for his song "Blue River." The positive audience reaction encouraged Joni to stay
and play 2 songs - "Cherokee Louise" and "How Do You Stop."
Early in 1991 Joni had an exhibition of her paintings traveling around Europe.
In February Joni visited Canada again to do promotion for the upcoming album and she guested on Murray McLauchlan's
radio show "Swinging On A Star" (or as Joni jokingly referred to it, "Swinging AT a Star"). Joni and Murray met as teens;
Joni remarked that her mom has a drawing on her wall that Murray gave her back in the early 1960's. With an audience consisting
solely of Joni's parents and a friend, Murray sang his version of "Woodstock" to open the show. With Larry joining her onstage,
Joni then performed "Cherokee Louise," "Night Ride Home," and "Hejira." She also noodled around on the piano singing a rather
strange version of Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," using chords that she later melded to the song "Not To Blame."
As a closer, Murray and Joni sang "The Circle Game" with Murray's band. The two traded verses and Joni sang a lovely and cool
harmony vocal over Murray's choruses.
The album "Night Ride Home" was released by Geffen Records on March 5, 1991.
Also released were 15, 000 special packages of the new album - an all paper and string-tied edition that included 4
of Joni's double exposure photographs.
In the U.S. it premiered on Billboard's Top Album charts on March 23 at #68, moving up to #48 in it's second week, and
peaking at #41 in it's 6th week. In the U.K. the new album premiered at #25 on the album charts for the week ending March
Joni told the Boston Globe about the sound and mood of her new album. She said "The album is mainly variations on the
key of C, a lot of C major...major chords are happy, positive chords. It's a very sunny modality, this album, and friendly."
Wayne Shorter, Jim Keltner, David Baerwald, Brenda Russell, and Karen Peris from The Innocence Mission all guested on
the new tracks along with Bill Dillon, Alex Acuna, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Michael Landau. Joni is credited with playing the
oboe on the track "The Only Joy In Town" but in reality in was an oboe sound from her FAIRLIGHT synthesizer. But I guess an
oboe sound is an oboe sound, eh?
Joni told Murray McLaughlin at her "Swinging On A Star" radio appearance: "We got a cricket on the track (Night Ride
Home) when we recorded it. He flew into the studio behind the curtain when the door opened. He flew right into the studio
like a lucky thing. So we DAT'd him! Stuck him in the FAIRLIGHT and gave him the downbeat." (And she bursts into delighted
On April 4, ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" aired a short but sweet interview with Joni, and on the 12th, cable network
A&E featured a lengthier interview. On the 28th, music channel VH-1 aired a "VH-1 to 1" special called "NIGHT RIDE HOME"
that was a full half hour of interview, video bits, and teasingly short peeks of Joni playing the instrumental part of "Cherokee
Louise." The special also featured a display of quite a few of her paintings from various eras, and many shots of the double
exposure photographs that she and Klein had taken in Canada in 1990.
VH-1 also added Joni's video for the first single "Come In From The Cold" as a "VH-1 To Watch" selection during the
second week of April.
NIGHT RIDE HOME received almost universally glowing reviews. "Entertainment Weekly" gave it a solid "A", "New York Times"
writer Stephen Holden (a longtime Joni supporter) called it "...a kind of retrospective...closer in spirit to her 70's albums
than anything else she has released in more than a decade." Nick Coleman in "Time Out" said that this is Joni's "...most coherent
and involving album since The Great Days." Reviewer Lori Senger said "The Joni Mitchell found on NIGHT RIDE HOME is an older,
reflective woman, one appreciative of the easier things in life while remaining astutely aware of it's sometime hidden difficulties."
And Tower Records "Pulse" said "Longtime fans who were impatient with the sometimes overly ambitious production and arrangements
on albums like Chalk Mark will dig this." In fact, the only negative review I remember seeing was a typically snippy one in
the self-consciously hip rag "Details".
A cover story in "CD Review" magazine for July featured Joni and other 60's survivors such as Carlos Santana.
A new awards show called the "Rock Awards" was aired on ABC-TV in June, and the winner of the Media Event of the Year
award was "Roger Water's The Wall : Live in Berlin."
In July, Clannad and Paul Young released a cover of "Both Sides Now" that was featured as the bookend song in the gender-flip
In August, a super concert called "Guitar Legends" was announced to be held in Seville, Spain from October 15-19. Though
she was announced as one of the performers, for unknown reasons Joni withdrew from the shows the month before the concert
Also in August, Geffen began offering a free longform video called "Joni Mitchell : The Original Returns" with a movie
rental at combo video-audio stores. A half hour in length, it featured Joni's "Come In From The Cold" video and the interview
that aired on VH-1 back in April in a slightly rearranged format. Robin Rothman from Geffen said "Since Joni isn't touring,
this is another avenue to promote the new release." Joni told Billboard "It would be a logical time to tour...but unfortunately
things have conspired...(so) I'm gonna do videos."
On October 2, 1991, Joni joined the revelers at Sting's birthday party held at A & M Studios in L.A. It's been rumoured
that she cut quite the rug.
In November, "Rolling Stone" magazine voted HEJIRA one of the 100 Best Album Covers, and Joni was quoted in the booklet
for Aerosmith's 3 CD boxset "Pandoras Box". She said "Aerosmith is the kind of band that reminds me what I loved about rock
'n' roll in the first place."
In the "Billboard" year-end charts for 1991, Joni was #21 Top Album Artist- Female, and the video for "Roger Water's
The Wall : Live In Berlin" was #12 Top Music Video.
The February 1992 issue of "Musician" magazine had a page long interview with Joni on her guitar tunings.
On February 19, 1992 the Pro Set L.A. Music Awards chose NIGHT RIDE HOME as Best AOR album. That's Adult Oriented Rock,
Liz Taylor held a gala party at Disneyland for her 60th birthday and Joni was one of many many guests on the night of
In May's "Musician" magazine, Joni was one of the rockers quoted in an article called "Drugs and Booze and Creativity
(Candid Conversations about Musical Inspiration)" Musicians discussing the effects of drugs on their creative lives were Bonnie
Raitt, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and others. Joni said: "Out of desperation, when you have no inspiration, (you may try)
to stimulate it with the addition of something artificial. But...the road is too dangerous, it can burn you out, and kill
Also in May, Rhino Records released a 3 volume CD set called "Troubadours of the Folk Era." Joni's original version
of 'Both Sides Now" is on volume 2.
In the summer of 1992 Joni joined an audience of other Hollywood musicians and showbiz folks at a benefit concert for
singer-songwriter Victoria Williams who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The event was held at the L.A. Whiskey
with headline performers like Maria McKee, T-Bone Burnett, and Michael Penn.
In September, Bill Clinton won the Democratic presidential nomination in a race against the incumbent Republican President
George Bush. Much was made in the press about the fact that Clinton's teenage daughter Chelsea had been named after the Joni
Mitchell song "Chelsea Morning." Clinton stated that it had been Judy Collins version that he'd heard while in England as
a youth. When some early reports stated that "Chelsea Morning" was a Judy Collins song, a flurry of articles followed about
how the song was Joni's but the version was Judy's.
In the TV Guide listings for the morning of October 5, 1992 Joni was listed as a guest on Good Morning America to discuss
her new book "Both Sides Now" (?!?!?) There was no such appearance and GMA later claimed that they never told TV Guide that
information. Well, there was a book named 'Both Sides Now" out that month and it was a children's book - an illustrated representation
of the lyrics to the song. Joni did not have anything to do with it's production however.
The October 15th isssue of Rolling Stone was a special issue entitled "The Interviews" and it ran an edited copy of
Joni's interview from last May. Only two issues later, RS had another special issue entitled "Portraits" which had a stupendous
photograph by Herb Ritts of Joni leaning against a tree with her hair pulled back and throat bared, barefoot and pregnant
In December a Canadian issued tribute album was released. It was called "Back to the Garden : A Tribute to Joni Mitchell"
The end of 1992 also saw two reissues of Joni Mitchell albums on gold disc. First was the DCC Compact Classics release
of COURT AND SPARK. Mobile Fidelity then issued an original master recording of WILD THINGS RUN FAST. Both had improved sound,
of course, but "C&S" was particularly gorgeous and a big improvement over the mix done in the early days of CD mastering
in the early 1980's.
Also released late in 1992 was singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin's album FAT CITY produced by Larry Klein. This album is
noteworthy here as it was mostly recorded in The Kiva, a studio in Joni and Larry's Bel Air house -the same studio where Joni
recorded her albums. I really love Shawn's music and I think her upcoming album A FEW SMALL REPAIRS is a pop masterpiece.
It's my favorite album of the year as of the time I'm writing this in September 1996. I also enjoy FAT CITY, but even though
Joni did no background vocals on the album (only handclaps and a deep smokey laugh on one song), it sounds like she's everywhere.
Imitation is the most sincere sort of flattery, I guess. Shawn's generous wit was evident when she thanked Joni in the liner
notes by saying "To Joni Mitchell - me wimp, you master."
With the inauguration of Bill Clinton as the new president in January 1993, more articles appeared about how Chelsea
got her name. This time even "The New York Times" got into the act with a full column on the story, with Joni's picture at
the top of the column and Judy's at the bottom.
Also in January, Graham Nash held an exhibition of his Nash Edition prints at Photo L.A. 93 which benefitted the L.A.
County Museum of Art. Joni was one of the attendees at the show and a sponsor.
In April of 1993, David Crosby released his first new solo album in years called THOUSAND ROADS. It contained his version
of a song that he'd co-written with Joni. The song was "Yvette in English." Much more information about this collaboration
came out after Joni's version appeared on her 1994 album. (See Part 2).
In May there were incorrect reports that Joni was recording an album of Bob Dylan covers. The artist that was planning
this and did it was instead Judy Collins. Jeez! Aren't people clear on the concept of who's Joni, who's Judy, and who's Joan
Also in May Joni won her case in the California Court of Appeal in Mitchell Vs. State Board of Equalization. A panel
of judges from the 2nd District California Court of Appeal decided that Joni's pre-1975 recording contracts were for personal
services and not for the sale of master recordings. Because of this difference, she could not be forced to pay state sales
tax. This decision brought Joni a refund of the tax she'd paid plus interest for a total check of $566,000.00.
Also in May, amazing news! Joni was announced as the headliner act on the first night of the two day "Troubadours of
Folk Festival" to be held the first weekend of June at U.C.L.A.'s Drake Stadium. This was the first time in ten years that
she'd accepted a gig that was lengthier than a 2 or 3 song guest spot.
Joni had just finished recording the tracks for her next album TURBULENT INDIGO when she did the "Troubadours of Folk
Joni said a few years later that she and Larry broke up on the day they started recording the album. Joni talked to
"Mojo" magazine and said "...there were things about living with "Joni Mitchell" - not with me - that pinched on his life
in a certain way that made me think he needed a break. Our separation, I think, was wholesome - painful and occasionally a
little mean, but never nasty or ugly."
The reviews of the "Troubadours" show were few but those that did appear were all enthusiastic about Joni's return to
the live stage. "Musician" magazine had a particularly encouraging write-up that alluded to some of her nervous mis-steps
in playing during the show but still praised her performance.
The concert in L.A. was successful enough to make longtime music promoter Jim Rissmiller schedule a series of 6 more
shows around the country :
1. Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania on August 28th
2. Tanglewood in Lennox, Massachusetts
on the 30th
3. Columbia, Maryland on September 3rd
4. Poplar Creek in Chicago, Illinois on the 10th
5. Jones Beach
Theater, Wantagh, New York on the 12th
6. Fiddler's Green in Denver, Colorado on the 18th
The March 25, 1995 issue of Billboard magazine announced that on December 6th, Joni would be presented with their highest
honor for creative achievement, the Century Award. Past winners of the Billboard Century Award include George Harrison, Buddy
Guy, and Billy Joel. The award has been presented annually since 1992 "to an artist to acknowledge the uncommon excellence
of a still-unfolding body of work." The 1995 Billboard Century Award was the first of many awards Joni would receive over
the next two years.
The April issues of Mirabella and Vogue magazines contained interviews with Joni. In Mirabella,
writer Ken Tucker asks Joni about her influence on pop music, the disappointing sales for her album Turbulent Indigo, her
painting, and her life of "colorful experiences that I'd like to turn into short stories." In Vogue, Charles Gandee talks
to Joni about ageism in pop music, the critical praise for Turbulent Indigo, and her new beau Donald Freed. He also briefly
mentions the daughter she gave up for adoption.The June 10th issue of Billboard heralded the fact that Music For Little People/Warner
Bros Records had released the album Hand In Hand, an all-star compilation of songs about being a parent. Songs on the album
included Joni's "The Circle Game."Also in June, Amy Grant's version of "Big Yellow Taxi" became an Adult Contemporary Top
20 hit, spending the entire summer on easy listening stations around the U.S. Amy says: "I really like Joni Mitchell. She
was an artist whose records I listened to with the same intensity that I perceive the girls that write me listen to my stuff."
In July's Musician magazine (Special 200th Issue), the Fast Forward section focused on "Joni Mitchell's Home Studio." Writer
Bill Flanagan visited Joni at her Bel Air home and spent time talking to her in her home recording studio and her kitchen,
where she said she does most of her creating. This I/V was conducted before Joni received her VG-8 computer brain and Parker
Fly guitar (May 1995) because she talks only about her acoustic instruments, including her small custom built Collings Baby.
She also discusses what types of microphones and recording equipment she uses on her albums.
On July 3rd and 4th, "CBS This Morning" ran a two part I/V with Joni by Mark McEwen. They discussed David Geffen, Joni's
post-polio syndrome problems, her making of the album Turbulent Indigo with husband Larry Klein after they had just decided
to separate, and so on.
The August issue of Mojo magazine featured a cover story called "100 Greatest Albums Ever Made." The Hissing of Summer
Lawns ran at #78, with Blue at #18.
On the night of August 21st, Joni's first appearance on Jay Leno from February (she sang "Sex Kills") was rerun on NBC.
On August 29th, 1995 the Joni Mitchell Homepage was launched on the World Wide Web. Built and maintained by collector and
archivist Wally Breese, it filled a hole in the net as far as information about Joni was concerned.
In September, Reprise
Records released the soundtrack to the TV series "Friends." Joni's original vocal for her composition "Big Yellow Taxi," set
over a hip-hop backing track, was one of the songs on the collection. It was a radical reform of the song, co-produced by
Mitchell. Also on the soundtrack were The Rembrandts, Lou Reed, Hootie & The Blowfish, Toad The Wet Sprocket, Barenaked
Ladies, k.d. lang, Grant Lee Buffalo, The Beach Boys, Paul Westerberg, Jonathan Edwards, R.E.M., The Pretenders, and Lisa
Kudrow (actress from the series). Fragments of songs that Kudrow performed on previous episodes, as well as dialogue from
the show, was interspersed between tracks.
Released about the same time was the Mammoth/KCRW Records CD and cassette RARE ON AIR : Volume 2, which was taken from
live sessions from KCRW-FM's "Morning Becomes Eclectic." Joni has one cut on this collection, "Just Like This Train," from
her 9/12/94 appearance on Chris Douridas' radio program. This was the final public performance (so far) of Joni and her ex-husband
Larry Klein. Other artists on the compilation disc were Aimee Mann, Jackson Browne, The Cranberries, Lloyd Cole, Cibo Matto,
Bettie Serveert, Tanya Donnelly, World Party, J.J.Cale, Philip Glass, Sebadoh, Vic Chestnut, and MC 900 Ft. Jesus.
October's issue of the magazine Hypno:The World Journal of Popular Culture, featured an interview with Joni by Maynard
Keenan of the group Tool. The two musicians discuss music and art and how they relate. Joni said: "Major chords to me are
like the primary colors, and the minors are just a darkening of those colors in a way. So when you get into hybrid chords,
like mixing orange with indigo and white to get green...those are the colors I like harmonically. I always liked odd colors
in my ear."
In the November 2nd issue of Rolling Stone was an article on the book "Rolling Stone Images of Rock & Roll." A collection
of nearly 200 photographs, the book chronicles the evolution of rock & roll. It featured a photo by Norman Seeff that
is incorrectly labeled as being from 1976. It's one of the series which features Joni in her pool from the session shoot for
The Hissing of Summer Lawns. The album itself was released in late 1975, so the photographs had to have been taken in 1975
or earlier. The cover story in this issue of Rolling Stone was on Alanis Morissette, who had became the first Canadian born
female to make it to number 1 on the Billboard album charts, beating Joni's 21 year record of 4 weeks at number 2 for the
album Court & Spark.
On November 5, Joni performed a short set at a dinner honoring cartoonist Garry Trudeau at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. She
was accompanied by drummer Brian Blade, whom she'd met that past May at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
On November 6, Joni gave a kamikaze concert at a club in NYC called The Fez. She played her new green electric guitar,
and was once again joined by drummer Brian Blade. The concert was announced only once on local NY radio, yet this 200-person
capacity club was filled with fellow musicians such as Natalie Merchant, Eric Andersen and Victoria Williams. Chrissie Hynde
of The Pretenders and Carly Simon had an altercation there due to Hynde's rowdy behavior - she kept yelling out to Joni throughout
the show. The ironic part about this event to me is that Joni had seen The Pretenders a few days earlier (on the 4th), and
backstage after that show, Chrissie was in a bad mood because at both that night's performance and the one a couple of days
before in L.A., women in the audience had been yelling out to her all through her show. She said she found it distracting.
Just a few days later, Chrissie was the screaming woman in Joni's audience.The December 9th issue of Billboard featured Joni
on the cover (A rarity). "Joni Mitchell, The Century Award" featured Timothy White's masterful essay on Joni called "Portrait
of the Artist." White discussed Joni's lengthy career and included a great deal of new information, particularly about Joni's
childhood. He also included three wonderful photos of Joni between the ages of about 3-8, and reflects on a recent visit with
Joni when she had a pot luck dinner for her friends at her Bel Air home. (Lucky guy!).
On December 6, Joni received her Billboard Century Award after an eloquent and perceptive introduction by
presenter Peter Gabriel. He introduced a three and a half minute film on Joni's career that included short clips of rare performances:
"The Johnny Cash Show" on ABC-TV in 1969, the Isle of Wight Festival in the summer of 1970, etc. The film also had reminiscences
from David Crosby, Graham Nash and Billboard's own Timothy White. Joni's acceptance speech was notable for her remarks about
the difficulty of being a woman in the music industry in the early years, and for her thanks to "music lovers" and those folks
who've kept her going through the years by coming up to her and telling her how much her songs have meant to them.
On December 8th, "CBS This Morning" taped Joni's lengthy (for U.S. TV) appearance for later broadcast in
early January. Joni performed a few songs, talked to Mark McEwen and the other hosts of the show, and took questions from
On December 12, Joni made a second appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and sang a new tune called
"Love Puts on a New Face." Brian Blade joined her on drums.
The 12th was also the day that Joni first heard about the Joni Mitchell Homepage and gave her approval to my project.
On January 3rd, between 8 and 9 AM, "CBS This Morning" broadcast the show it had taped with Joni on December 8th.
On January 4th, the Grammy nominations were announced and Joni received two, for Best Pop Album and Best Recording Package
for her album Turbulent Indigo.
In early January, Stephen Holden's article in the New York Times chastised the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for not yet inducting
Joni. In "Too Feminine For Rock? Or Is Rock Too Macho?" Holden says: "The slighting of Ms. Mitchell glaringly illustrates
the Hall of Fame's most serious bias: its disdain for folk-oriented soft rock, especially when made by women." A strong case
could be made for this article, which was syndicated around the U.S., being the reason that the Hall of Fame finally decided
to induct Joni the following year.
On January 10,1996 Reprise released a single of "Big Yellow Taxi" remixes. The original "Friends" Album Version had come
out the previous September, but this single had six new versions that are startling in their contrast. My favorite is the
Original A Capella with Guitar version that has no overdubs (no shoo bop bop's). I also recommend the soothing Radio Mix.