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Joni Mitchell och de tolv larjungarna Print-ready version

by Mans Ivarsson
May 8, 1996
Original article: PDF

Translated by Allison Fernley

Joni Mitchell and the Twelve Disciples

She is the matriarch. Yesterday she came to Stockholm. And denied all her children and grandchildren.

This afternoon, Canadian Joni Mitchell receives Stikkan Anderson's Polar music prize. But she is about as far from a "dancing queen" as you can get, and she is still categorized under the heading of popular music.

Yet she is queen and matriarch.

Just as for many years every new singer with an acoustic guitar had to endure being compared to Bob Dylan, every hopeful woman with a guitar has come to be measured against the original prototype, Joni Mitchell, 52.

Of course, she is not the first woman to ever sing her own songs with an acoustic guitar, but she became the dominant feminine voice in the late 60s when a long line of long-haired troubadours started singing seriously about the dreams, love life and hippie ideals of the new rock generation.

She was a blonde beauty with an amazing voice with hit songs like "Both sides now”, "Big yellow taxi" and "Woodstock" (the ultimate tribute to the hippie dream and the green movement).

What made it even more intriguing was that her relationship-themed lyrics were more or less openly populated by contemporary rock superstars like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Joni Mitchell became the archetype of rhymed self-confession from the girl's room.

Just a few details

And even today, nearly thirty years later, it is more the rule than the exception that her name appears as soon as a new female songwriter emerges.

When I ask her about this, she downplays the importance of fame: It has mostly become a marketing gimmick from the record companies, "a new improved Joni Mitchell" - sort of. I haven’t noticed any who truly embraced my style. Individual details, perhaps, but not the whole.

Then I have to ask if she looks down on her most popular albums, those from the late 60s and early 70s. She says she doesn't, and I make her defend the song about the Woodstock festival, a song that surely comes across as naïve on the verge of foolish for many today.

  Lost the mainstream audience

I can only assume that she is being honest, but the underlying problem lies in Joni Mitchell's career. From 1975 she moved away from pop and folk towards a more experimental and jazz-influenced music. Since then, the multimillion-dollar publishing industry has slowly but surely abandoned her. Often in favor of her “children” and “grandchildren,” all shaped by the era when Joni Mitchell was synonymous with young and fiery feminine folk music.

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