Joni Mitchell and Lake Mendota

by Doug Moe
Capital Times (Wisconsin)
March 31, 2006

MY MARCH 4 column on the 30th anniversary of the ice storm brought a number of reader reactions, one of them from Richard McKinley of Prospect Heights, Ill., who was here at the time and had several vivid memories of the storm, which he recalled as "a series of storms over a period of two or three days, with rain alternately accumulating and freezing on the branches and surfaces, in layers."

McKinley remembered that famed singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell was in Madison at the time (having played a Feb. 29 concert at the Dane County Coliseum), and utilized the eerie fog/ice/mist/snow on Lake Mendota for a series of photographs by Joel Bernstein, who was traveling with Mitchell at the time.

McKinley mentioned that the cover of a 1976 Mitchell album, "Hejira," was a photo of Mitchell on Lake Mendota: "Taken from the frozen surface of University Bay near Lot 60, the cover unmistakably depicts bending, ice-coated trees on Picnic Point and the shore of University Bay near the Elm Drive UW dorms."

I knew about that cover - though not that it happened in the early hours of the ice storm - because Tom Teuber of 105.5-Triple M radio and I had tracked down the story behind the cover five years ago when a listener inquired about it. There are some details on "Overnight, the nearby lake fogged and froze over. When Joni awoke, she donned a pair of black men's skates, a long black skirt and a fur cape, took a limo to the lake's edge and managed to conquer bitter winds and an already thawing, spongy ice while Joel took the pics."

What I didn't realize, until I got McKinley's note, was that another photo from that Lake Mendota session was used as the cover art for a Joni Mitchell CD just last year. "Songs of a Prairie Girl" came out in April 2005 and again Mitchell is on the lake in black clothes and skates, and Picnic Point is visible in the background.

The Web site of Bernstein - - confirms that the "Prairie Girl" cover shot was indeed one from "a series of photographs taken one afternoon on the snowy lake."...

Printed from the official Joni Mitchell website. Permanent link:

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