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Joni Mitchell named to songwriters' hall of fame   Print

by Cassandra Szklarski
Toronto Star
November 9, 2006

Folk music icon Joni Mitchell and country pioneer Wilf Carter are among the artists to be inducted next year into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The music legends are among four songwriters and 25 Canadian-penned classics - including "Spinning Wheel," "Ain't We Got Fun" and "How About You" - to be celebrated at a black-tie gala in Toronto on Jan. 28.

Raymond Egan, one of the most prolific Broadway and Hollywood lyricists during the 1920s and '30s, and Montreal chanteur Jean-Pierre Ferland, a major figure in Quebec music, will also be inducted.

"There's so much rich and wonderful history to this country," board member Eddie Schwartz said as he announced the inductees at a hotel ballroom packed with industry reps.

"I'm just blown away, staggered, really, every time I come to one of these events and get to walk down this path and learn so much more about our country," said Schwartz, a songwriter whose own hits include Pat Benetar's '80s chart-topper "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."

Canadian tenor Henry Burr, who recorded more than 5,000 songs under 11 pseudonyms, and folk music impresario Sam Gesser will each receive a legacy award.

Inductee David Clayton-Thomas, who's tune "Spinning Wheel" has been covered by more than 400 artists in 20 different languages, said the catchy song was partly inspired by Mitchell.

He recalled seeing her sing at a Toronto club in the 1960s.

"I had an enormous crush on Joni Mitchell," said the 65-year-old Clayton-Thomas, whose 1968 debut album with Blood Sweat and Tears sold 10 million copies worldwide.

"She was 18 years old and absolutely stunning and sang like an angel and wrote pure genius. Her little line about `the painted ponies' . . . in (her song) `Circle Game' stuck in my mind. And so when I wrote `Spinning Wheel,' somehow or another `painted ponies' crept into it, and that was courtesy of Joni Mitchell."

Five of Mitchell's hits are among the songs being inducted, including "Help Me," "Big Yellow Taxi," "Woodstock", "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" and "Both Sides Now" (a.k.a. ``Clouds").

The honour comes as Mitchell is said to be working on her first new album in eight years.

Also being inducted is Sylvia Tyson's gospel-influenced song ``You Were on My Mind," recorded with her then-husband Ian Tyson during the early 1960s folk revival.

Tyson said she was surprised to hear she was to be inducted, despite being a board member of the hall of fame for six years.

"I had told them I wouldn't accept an award as long as I was actually on the board," said Tyson, 66. "When I took a year off they kind of slipped it by me."

Songs must be more than 25 years old to be considered for the awards, launched four years ago.

The acknowledgment for Carter, regarded as the father of country music in Canada, comes 10 years after his death in December 1996.

His 1932 recording of "My Swiss Moonlight Lullaby" - which showcased his yodelling - is considered the first hit by a Canadian country performer.

Carter, born in Port Hilford, N.S., was also known as Montana Slim and performed well into his 80s.

Ferland will see five of his songs enter the hall of fame: "Ton visage," "Un Peu plus haut un peu plus loin," "T'es mon amour, t'es ma maitresse," "Le Petit roi" and "Je reviens chez nous." His 1970 album "Jaune" and 1971 double album "Soleil" are considered to be among the most influential works in Quebec's musical history.

The 72-year-old suffered a stroke last month while rehearsing a farewell concert in Montreal to mark the end of a 42-year career.

Egan was born in Windsor, Ont., in 1890 and made his way to New York, where he collaborated with many of the best composers of the Tin Pan Alley era. He died in 1952.

The gala performance will be broadcast on CBC Radio the following day and on CBC-TV in March 2007.

 

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