Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell seemed unsure how to handle the lifetime achievement award presented to her Sunday afternoon by the Saskatchewan Recording Industry Association.
The Saskatoon raised star jokingly put the glass, plate-like award behind her head, then on top like a halo before dispensing with the hi-jinks in front of a crowd of more than 150 people at the Willows Golf Resort.
Mitchell's short comic performance reflects her nonchalant attitude towards the numerous accolades her pensive poetic work has garnered since she surfaced in the 1960s.
"Awards don't mean that much to me," Mitchell told reporters after the award ceremony, adding she takes satisfaction from producing music that has meaning in other people's lives.
Still, Mitchell, who turned 50 earlier this month, acknowledged she appreciated the award and the ceremony which was attended by her parents and some of her former school teachers.
The achievement award — the first handed out by the provincial recording industry association — was presented in conjunction with the association's annual Music Industry Weekend that showcases Saskatchewan talent. During the three-day convention, representatives from major record companies, Canadian and Nashville songwriters, and other music professionals, offered advice to participants.
Prompted by questions from moderator Joel Scott, Mitchell told the audience at the golf resort Sunday about influences in her life. She credited a former Australian who taught her in elementary school for helping her develop a sophisticated approach to lyric writing.
The singer-songwriter recalled deciding never to try to earn a high grade after a Grade 1 teacher separated the class according to intellect, using the names of birds to represent students with 'bluebirds' being the smartest.
"I looked at the bluebirds and thought: 'I don't like any of them'"
In addition to providing insights into her personality and inspiration, Mitchell also gave the audience a sneak preview of her forthcoming album — a haunting song based on the sad history of women who once worked in "slavish" conditions in laundries in Ireland. Many of the poor women — "prostitutes," "destitutes," and "temptresses" — died while working in the laundries and were buried in unmarked graves at the sites, Mitchell said.
The song is one of nine she has already recorded for her next album and will be sung as a duet with Sinead O'Conner.
Mitchell's performance followed a musical introduction by Regina guitarist Jack Semple, who said Mitchell's songs have had a large impact on him.