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POET, PAINTER AND MUSICIAN FOR A NEW GENERATION   Print

  JONI MITCHELL

by Terry Hughes
HELLO! (Magazine)
August 4, 1990
Original article: PDF

Last week, Pink Floyd's spectacular The Wall concert, held in Berlin's long-divided Potsdamerplatz, celebrated the fall of the barriers which have kept Europe split in two halves since the end of the Second World War. And on the stage was a woman who is as enduring a part of the rock scene as Pink Floyd themselves.

Joni Mitchell is often thought of as a singer/songwriter whose songs merely chart what she herself calls her "inner landscape" and which delve deep into her own emotions. But her work always has a universal validity and her pithy and poetic lyrics succeed in expressing emotions most experience but few can put into words.

Sometimes a Joni Mitchell song has, like the idealistic Woodstock, captured the whole spirit of a time. So it's no surprise to find her participating in the celebration of an event as significant for the Nineties as the youthful optimism of Woodstock for the Sixties.

"To me, the coming down of the wall here in Berlin is such a momentous event," she said when she spoke to HELLO! from Germany. So when Pink Floyd's Roger Waters invited her to be part of it, she accepted.

Although Joni Mitchell has for many years sung about politics and pollution as well as personal feelings, she's the first to admit that her present involvement with the world issues in the Berlin concert and her recent albums owes a lot to her happiness with Larry Klein, the bass guitarist 13 years her junior whom she married in 1982.

"The main concern in a single person is 'where is my love', she says. "A normal sociological pattern is to look for a partner, but if you're lucky enough to find a stable relationship, you have all this energy going free for family and larger concerns. Your energy's not being used up out combing the bars looking for romance!"

But it's not just that she has more time and energy for global issues now. "The times we're living through are very anxious," she says. "The world's a mess. Not to be anxious in these times is not be be alive."

"In the Eighties, the heart went out of life. It was all about getting. The Eighties were a decade when you didn't show your feelings."

But Joni believes that the Nineties are reacting against all that and her belief is reflected in the new album which her many fans are eagerly awaiting.

"I played the album at the restaurant where we eat every day, and it was really well received by the kids there," she reveals proudly, happy that her music is finding a new, young audience who tell her that her songs make them want to open bottles of champagne and light candles.

But that doesn't mean her new record is self-indulgent. "It's got tunes — it's not just sentimental," she hastens to point out.

This autumn, we'll be able to see another side of Joni, when her paintings form a major part of Canada In The City, a major celebration of Canadian art, music and culture, due to take place in the Broadgate Centre in the City of London from September 10 to 21.

Although she's best known as a singer and songwriter, painting has always been important to Joni — she designed many of her album sleeves.

"I've painted all my life, I studied art in Alberta — I started studying painting at the age of nine."

Joni's art, like her music, is inclined to reflect her life. "At the beginning of the decade, when Larry and I met and got together, my painting was mostly figurative," she explains. "In a lot of the early work, Larry is my subject matter."

As the decade went on, she moved towards abstract expressionism, though, as she points out, never without a figurative element.

It's clear how important Larry and their stable relationship is to Joni. But doesn't she wish that there were children to complete their family?

"There's no absence of children in my life," she insists. "I have a lot of godchildren and a lot of children who grew up in my house over the years.

"I'm a painter and a poet and a musician and there isn't a lot of time for all that. If it weren't for 'the vampire of talent', I'd have raised children."

Yet there is a child about whom Joni sometimes sings wistfully. In the early Sixties, Joni had a baby whom she gave up for adoption, for the child's own good. And that's why she feels no regret about her decision.

"Anyone could have raised that child better than me in those first years. In order to raise that child, I would have had to give up my life. I would have been a waitress. It would have been one cranky woman bringing up another cranky woman.

"But I celebrate her birthday — it's near St Valentine's Day. And reach out to her once in a while in my songs, to soften the blow."

 

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