This work-in-progress lists all currently known appearances, drawn from a variety of sources.
Researched, Compiled, and Maintained by Simon Montgomery, © 2001-2021.
Special thanks to Joel Bernstein for his contributions and assistance.
Latest Update: December 5, 2021
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Billboard honored Joni Mitchell with its highest accolade,
the Century Award for distinguished creative achievement.
The laurel is named for the 100th anniversary of the publication in 1994.
The aim of the Century Award is to acknowledge the uncommon
excellence of one artist's still-unfolding body of work. Moreover,
the award focuses on those singular musicians who have not
heretofore been accorded the degree of serious homage their
achievements deserve. It is a gesture unprecedented in Billboard's history,
and one that is informed by the heritage of the publication itself.
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Report by David Rind:
On December 6, 1995, Joni officially began her "year (plus) to remember" by accepting the 1995 Billboard Century Award, Billboard's highest honor for creative achievement. Named for the 100th anniversary of the magazine in 1994, its purpose is to "recognize long-established yet greatly underappreciated artists with an ongoing body of work". No question that Joni easily fits into that category; it sounds like it was made for her. The initial five artists, who so far have also included George Harrison, Buddy Guy and Billy Joel, were chosen together in the spring of 1992 after a secret year-long consultation by Tim White, Billboard Publisher Howard Lander and hundreds of industry professionals, including fellow artists.
The presentation came about half-way through the show whose overall purpose was to present awards to various artists for their record sales, and featured performances by mainstream performers (e.g., Hootie and the Blowfish, Michael Bolton, Stevie Wonder, and an incredibly sexy performance by Shania Twain). It began with an introduction by Peter Gabriel. What may not be completely obvious from his words themselves was the pride he showed in being able to present it to someone who, as he stated, continually "put substance before style and passion before packaging", ... with "imagination, invention, intelligence and soul". His initial speech was followed by a video of several minutes duration, starting with the classic clip from the Johnny Cash show of a young and beautiful Joni singing "Both Sides Now", and continuing with images from the following 25 years. Several performers and Timothy White offered explicit praise. [As an aside, these included comments from Graham Nash and David Crosby indicating how Joni had written Woodstock from their ramblings, which she later strongly denied]. The voice-over noted that Joni was "welcomed back" by the general community (as if she had really been away) with "Turbulent Indigo" in 1994.
Joni herself looked attractive in a midi-length black dress, and long blond hair. She was openly grateful to Timothy White for orchestrating the affair, and continuing to back her releases - more than anything, it seemed that was why she was happy to be there. She indicated that she was trying to find some humility, but her demeanor was aggressive: in front of this audience, which was there to celebrate the various Billboard chart toppers (hence the icons of popularity), Joni noted that she had through the years been rejected and dismissed (by many from this same community). Her salvation had come from the record buyers who continued to tell her how her lyrics had affected their lives; that, rather than professional recognition, had kept her going, and those were the people she most wanted to thank. No one in the audience could argue with that sentiment.
It is perhaps no accident that this award was followed by many others. A major factor constraining Joni's recognition since the mid-70s has been her lack of commercial success. Regardless of the idealistic value of the "pure artist", ultimate recognition requires popular support. Joni was already getting that from the variety of artists of all stripes who have publicly praised her as a major influence in their lives. But the true commercial patina, if it was not to come from massive sales, could only be bestowed by an organ of the record selling community like Billboard. Tim White's appreciation of the quality of her music made her acceptable to the business end of the music business, and like it or not, that is an invaluable influence. In its wake came the Grammy awards and even the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which was also forced by Stephen Holden's broadside against gender discrimination in rock and roll). The Billboard award might seem to be somewhat less important than those other honors, but it was invaluable for bringing Joni back into the mainstream in the industry's perception. Three cheers for Tim White. (dr)