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Images on love’s canvas Print-ready version

Joni Mitchell: beauty’s song

by Richard Perlmutter
The Spectrum (Buffalo University)
December 10, 1969
Original article: PDF

Life is an enigma. It may be pain, taking the form of death and suffering. Or it may be a more symbolic pain as in the lottery of last week. But fortunately the enigma has another aspect, beauty.

Roberta Jean [sic] Anderson is a poetess of both sides. (Eliminating that bit of journalistic illusion; Roberta Joan Anderson is better known as Joni Mitchell.)

Joni Mitchell takes the pain of life and uses it to evoke that maysterious [sic] form of beauty called art.

Canadian-born Joni Mitchell has been in the folk music business now for about six years. She was originally an art student at the Alberta College of Art but painting with words and images soon overrode the canvas and Joni turned to song writing.

Unique folk form

She was soon known as a creative and accomplished composer of a unique form of folk music. For several years such songs as "Both Sides Now (Clouds)" were noticeable hits recorded by other artists like Judy Collins and Frank Sinatra.

Joni Mitchell had sung some of her works in cafes and coffeehouses but it was after she appeared at the Mariposa Folk Festival and Miami Pop Festival that she had proven her captivating artistic talent extended not only from the pen but also to the guitar and voice. She is now 26 and lives in California in a simple house which seems to shun her new-found wealth.

Love's lost man

Joni's poetry is at times intensely personal. In "I Had a King" she sings, "You know my thoughts don't fit the man." The man is Chuck Mitchell, a folk singer whom Joni met in Detroit, later married and still later divorced. The reason is alluded to when she sings "He's swept with the broom of contempt And the rooms have an empty ring"

At times Joni Mitchell describes loves that are lost and loves never found. Sometimes she will describe a humane gentleness and simplistic innocence. Other times her songs emanate waves of coldness and inhumanity.

In Joni Mitchell's poetry our world and our thoughts have many dimensions and many sides. Perhaps they all combine to yield only illusion.

Busy being free

The wide open spaces of her native Canada imbue her songs with a poetic concern with freedom. And the classic symbol of freedom is the sea, the recurrent theme of her first album.

Yet even freedom has its limits and the freedom to dream and the freedom of nature cannot always answer all the questions of our existence and our world. So she sings: Out of the city / And down to the seaside / To sun my shoulders / And wind in my hair / But sandcastles crumble / And hunger is human / And humans are hungry / For worlds they can't share / My dreams with the seagulls fly / Out of reach of cry

Joni Mitchell is retiring from the concert circuit bag and returning home to some serious songwriting. Hence, her concert at Kleinhans Music Hall on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. will be her second to last performance with her last scheduled appearance to be in Royal Festival Hall in London, Feb. 7.

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