Live! At The Library: A Conversation with Joni Mitchell

Joni in conversation with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden
March 2, 2023

Transcribed and compiled by Sam Stone



Joni Mitchell (pre-recorded promotional video): My name is Joni Mitchell and I'm a creative person. I like the creative process.

Audio: Big Yellow Taxi "They paved paradise, put up a parking lot... Help me I think I'm falling in love with you..."

I've been a painter all my life. I've been a musician most of my life. If you can paint with a brush, you can paint with words. Some things make a song and some things make a painting. Things that make a painting are a kind of a static image. The things that make a song are kind of a fluid story. The songs are amazing. They travel the world and they meet all kinds of people. And just like people themselves, they have different encounters with different people. It's a great honor to join the pantheon of recipients.

Audio: Both Sides Now (2000) "I've looked at love from both sides now From give and take and still somehow..."


Shari Werb: Good evening. I'm Shari Werb. I'm Director of the Center for Learning Literacy and Engagement here at the Library. And I'm so excited to welcome you all to a very special Live at the Library! event. A conversation between Gershwin Prize for Popular Song winner Joni Mitchell and Dr. Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress. [applause and cheering] Please mark your calendars for March 31st to watch the PBS broadcast of the wonderful tribute concert held in her honor last night. You will definitely want to see this.

If you haven't visited Live! At The Library event before, please note that every Thursday night we stay open until 8 PM where you can explore the Library and its exhibitions, participate in various programs, including music, films, theaters and special conversations like the one we're having tonight. We invite you to return with your friends and colleagues after hours. Grab food and drinks, shop, and take photos and explore our amazing collections with Library experts.

A few small housekeeping notes. I know we have many Joni Mitchell fans with us tonight. [audience cheering]  We're really glad you're all here. I do need to let you know that Joni will not be able to sign any items tonight, so please put away your pens and sharpies. Now, please silence your cell phones. Thank you for joining us at Live! At The Library. And I'd like to invite Sue Vita, chief of the Music Division, to introduce tonight's conversation. [applause]


Susan H. Vita: Okay. Shari, thank you very much, Shari. And I will add my welcome to all of you here in the Library of Congress Great Hall. Tonight is the final act of a three-day celebration in honor of the 2023 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song [winner], Joni Mitchell.

When you think of the Library of Congress, you may wonder how many books we have. But since this is a musical award, I'm here to tell you that we have much more than books. And since that memorable visit of Lizzo, I hope you know that one memorable thing that we have is President James Madison's crystal flute. Right? You know that, right? [applause] Okay. Of course. I must make mention of one of the most prized collections and the inspiration and guiding light for the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song: that the collections of George and Ira Gershwin. The Library has George's piano, Ira's typewriter, and many of the manuscripts and lyrics of those two men. The Library...  So Joni actually saw and played on George's piano a little bit this afternoon. Yeah! [applause]

Susan H. Vita: So as Joni is such a talented artist, we made sure to show her something both brothers Ira and George have in common with her, besides songwriting, that is: self-portraits of themselves. Ira and George were both artists as well, and we have in our Gershwin gallery, self-portraits of George by George and Ira by Ira. Ira happens to be in his underwear. [laughter] So take a look at that one in these days when you come back and go to the Gershwin Gallery. At the same time that Joni was developing her songwriting chops, she developed her skills as a visual artist, exhibiting a real passion for painting that has continued to this present day. And I mean, if you've seen her images, you-- They're really spectacular. So, let's go now to a clip that was done Monday by one of the artists that was here to perform -- Annie Lennox when she visited the Library.


Annie Lennox: I'm absolutely thrilled to be invited to take part in this very special celebration for Joni Mitchell. And though I'd heard about the Library of Congress, I'd never actually been here before. So, what a revelation it's been to visit this incredible building and more importantly, to witness the extraordinary artifacts that are here. There are over 173 million items with manuscripts, musical scores, and historic documents that are housed here or in many other buildings throughout the D.C. area. Among them are: George Gershwin's original score for "Rhapsody In Blue"; Ella Fitzgerald's original arrangement for "A-Tisket A-Tasket"; an actual lock of Beethoven's hair; "The Star-Spangled Banner" Broadside, published two days after it was written; and -- coming up to the present day -- for all you Lizzo fans, the James Madison crystal flute she played on her recent visit to the Library. And as I found out, there are around 75 Eurythmics songs and my own solo songs registered and housed within these or other buildings that make up the Library of Congress. Best of all, this building is open to the public. The Reading Room downstairs is one of the most impressive literary centers I've ever seen. I only wish I had more time to get to know it.

So, Joni. The real joy for me is being here to honor and celebrate your glorious legacy of music and art. Visiting the Library of Congress is an added privilege that I will also never forget. [applause]


Susan H. Vita: We're so grateful to Annie for going and putting that together for us.

So, the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is reserved for and granted to the musicians, songwriters, and singers who have reached the highest levels of musical achievement. And tonight, we are here to hear from one such supreme being, Joni Mitchell. [applause] One thing I have learned about Joni over the past few months is that she inspires strong and wonderful friendships, and those who support her do so passionately and with great love and affection. In short, she's not only an extraordinary songwriter, but she's also a really amazing person. So now I hope you're ready to enjoy a very special conversation between two amazing people:  the sublime Joni Mitchell and our own special celebrity, the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden. [applause]

As you know, one of the Library's missions is to preserve the nation's cultural history. Therefore, we do conversations like this one tonight, oral histories of important people in the music business. And we record and preserve them for posterity in our archives. So tonight, I have the delightful task of introducing the woman who leads our amazing Library. She's our own secret weapon, but maybe not so secret. The 14th Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden. [applause and cheering]

[Joni and Dr. Carla Hayden enter together]


Dr. Carla Hayden: I think they like you!  They're all up there

Joni Mitchell: Wow

Dr. Carla Hayden: See 'em?  All up there.  They're all on the steps. Look at them on the steps.

Joni Mitchell: Oh, you too. Oh, jeez!

Dr. Carla Hayden: Oh, my goodness. They're everywhere.

Joni Mitchell: They're everywhere!

Dr. Carla Hayden: Joni, Joni. Joni. Such love. Look. Such love. Wow! Soak it in for a second. Just soak it in. So much love.

Well, Sue mentioned that there are so many people from all walks of life, and especially musicians that you played with that have been so dear to you and expressed themselves. And I just have to acknowledge one of your friends that just passed -- Wayne Shorter.

Joni Mitchell: Wayne Shorter. [applause] Wayne Shorter to me was the best saxophonist ever. He was a GOAT. And he was a delight for me to work with because he is also a painter. So, he had a visual sense and I could instruct him on how to play in a visual way. And he would do that. He could, he could translate my words into the sounds I wanted. For instance, one piece of music, I said, "Okay, you come in here and you get out here and you come in real sad. And by the time you get to here, you get real young."  And he could play that! [laughs] He's the only sax player probably on the planet that could take that kind of instruction and understand it, you know? And another time I told him, "You're the bird" on this one song called "The Bird That Whistles." And he was standing in the studio, and the first lick that he made was so bird-like. It was perfect. But I looked out and he was waving his sax in the air and going, "No, no, no. One more take." And I went, "Oh, no! I'll punch you in, but I'm not going to give you a new track" You know, like... So I left that. The piece of music opens with Wayne being the bird like. Like no one else could possibly have been, but he kind of slept through his own magic at that moment, you know?

Dr. Carla Hayden: And that collaboration was something that you treasured. And then the friendship, too.

Joni Mitchell: Yeah, well, people...  Herbie [Hancock] used to say he'd like to watch Wayne and I talk like and they'd go, -- even Wayne's wife, Anna Maria, his first wife, you know, said, "Joni, you can understand what Wayne is saying?"  And I could, you know, and it wasn't that cryptic. It was very painterly. So, we had these weird conversations that Herbie enjoyed to see us talk.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Now I'm sure everyone knows you're talking about Herbie Hancock. Yeah. Herbie Hancock.

Joni Mitchell: Yeah, Herbie Hancock, yeah.  Sorry about that. Yeah.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Another dear friend.

Joni Mitchell: Yeah.

Dr. Carla Hayden: And he won his first jazz Album of the Year with letters to you, [ed. note: Herbie Hancock's 2007 album River: The Joni Letters won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards the following year, marking the first jazz album to win that prize in decades].

Joni Mitchell: Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Carla Hayden: And paid tribute to you.

Joni Mitchell: And I worked on another album with him called Gershwin's World, where that's the first time I sang "Summertime". And "The Man I Love". Those are the two songs.

Dr. Carla Hayden: So, the Gershwin songs.

Joni Mitchell: Stevie Wonder was on that album, too.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Wow. Well, during a concert in Newport and then last night for the Gershwin Award, Brandi Carlile, another one of your good friends, talked about what she calls Joni Jams, and [chuckles] Marcus Mumford talked about Chaka Khan correcting him. And everyone in the audience is saying, "Wait a minute, Chaka Khan was there?" And all that. So, what are these jams and how can we go? Let's just get down to it. You know, what?

Joni Mitchell: That's what we tried to recreate it at Newport, you know, like was the casualness of the jam. You know, there's no pressure. Everybody's allowed to be as experimental as they want. Come in whenever they want, get out whenever they want. You know, they're very loose. There's no cameras allowed, you know, so there's nobody's being scrutinized. Nobody's going to end up, like, on Facebook or anything. So, they're comfortable and they're so much fun. And Paul McCartney came to one of them and he was astounded that the two generations of musicians were mixing like that, you know?  Which is what happened with this band on stage last night. You know, you had my beautiful band, you know, which is my generation, and then all these young 'uns, you know, too. And they're playing with musicians that were their heroes. So... So the musical excitement of last night was very intense.

[ed. note: The house band at the Gershwin Prize concert comprised of Joni's 1998 backing band - Mark Isham, trumpet; Greg Leisz, pedal steel guitar; Larry Klein, bass; and Brian Blade, drums - alongside Joni Jam regulars, including Blake Mills, guitar; Celisse, guitar; Marcus Mumford, percussion; Lucius (Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig) and Brandi Carlile, backing vocals; and Greg Phillinganes, piano.]

Dr. Carla Hayden: Very intense. It was just magical in so many ways.

Joni Mitchell:  It was magical, it really was.

Dr. Carla Hayden: And we've already heard, Joni, that it was a concert where the love just flowed from the audience to the stage to everyone. It was a love fest. Not Woodstock. [audience laughing]

Joni Mitchell: It was beautiful.

Dr. Carla Hayden: It was really beautiful. So, when you think about that and all the love, what do you think a young Joni Anderson would feel about all these accolades and...

Joni Mitchell: Oh my god. No, it's beyond... You know, I didn't have any dreams of becoming a musician. I always wanted to be a painter. So, you know, I came to music kind of late. I didn't do air guitar in front of a mirror or any of that. [laughs] It just kind of--

Dr. Carla Hayden: It came.

Joni Mitchell: It happened. It's the way my life was. We started off in Fort MacLeod, which is a tiny village. That's where I was born.  Moved to Calgary, moved from there to a farm north of Regina, and moved from there to a small town, Maidstone. Moved from there to a small city North Battleford, from there to a bigger city, Saskatoon. >From there I went back to Calgary to art school. Then I went to Toronto to become a folk singer because there was a folk scene there.

From Toronto I went to Detroit, married an American. Not the best part of my life... [laughing]  From there.... One night in a poker game, I said to the man across from me, you know, "Look, I'm going to leave my husband tonight. Will you help me?" [laughing]

Dr. Carla Hayden: Ok!

So we rented a U-Haul. We drove to Detroit and the two of us carried 50% of the furniture down and put it in the U-Haul. I figured everything that we earned, we earned as a couple. Chuck and Joni Mitchell. So, 50% of it, I figured, was mine and... [laughs] We drove off to New York City and I lived there for a few years and traveled the Eastern seaboard, frequented a lot of towns. Washington, I played Washington. I played Florida. I played up and down the coast. And then I met my manager in New York, and we moved to California, and I've been there ever since in recent years...  After I went to Greece, I spent a couple of months living in the caves in Matala, Crete, and after that I bought some property in northern British Columbia, built a little stone cabin on it.  Small because I'd been living in a cave [laughs] and I figured, you know, this was pretty big. So compared to a cave, tiny kitchen, a bathroom too small to put a bathtub in. So, I eventually put the bathtub in the yard outside facing the bay and the mountains. And I have a black bear that comes to my property in late summer to hibernate. And I watched him climb the mountain while I'm taking a bath. It's a beautiful place. [laughs] Yeah.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Wow. So, you came to music though, a little late after the painting. So, were there some songwriters or musicians that inspired you or really made you think about it?

Joni Mitchell: Initially, I sang folk songs because they were easy, you know? And yeah, they didn't take a lot of skill, but...  I already was a fan of Miles Davis, but in my wildest dreams, I never thought I'd be playing with Miles' best band, you know? No, I didn't have any fantasies of success or anything. It just kind of... Like moving from small town to bigger town to bigger. Everything just kind of moved up in steps, you know?

Dr. Carla Hayden: So, when you had that big hit, the first really hit that so many people still can sing.

Joni Mitchell: What was that?

Oh, well, okay. Now, this is going to be interesting. I better do the right one. "Both Sides Now"?

Joni Mitchell: No, it wasn't. Well, Judy Collins had a big hit with it. I didn't. Same with "Big Yellow Taxi". It was a regional hit in Hawaii, but nobody else seemed to get it anywhere else in the world. [laughing]

Dr. Carla Hayden: Well, Hawaii is a little regional. So, what would you think was the song or the album that really...? People talk about Blue.

Joni Mitchell: Yeah, but at the time Blue came out, they really were horrified by it. It got very bad reviews. Well, most of my early career I got nothing but bad reviews. The worst review was for Travelogue when I played with a classical orchestra. You can still look that one up on the internet. [laughing] It's appalling. I mean, the guy was a sadist. I called him up and told him so. I said, you know, "You're so mean", you know, like... [laughing] "And you're so critical." You know, his complaint was, "Who does she think she is? A classical musician?" You know? And I thought, "Well, a lot of people play with big orchestras." It's a thrill to play with the big orchestra, you know?

Dr. Carla Hayden: Did it... Well, it didn't discourage you, though?

Joni Mitchell: No!

Dr. Carla Hayden: Those reviews and things.

Joni Mitchell: No, I'm hard to discourage and hard to kill. [laughing] [applause]

Dr. Carla Hayden: So, you just kept going and then you would do the classical and then you got into the jazz. And in fact, Herbie Hancock even said he thought you.... He thinks you're one of the best jazz singers out.

Joni Mitchell: Hmm.  Well, I learned a lot. I love Miles's horn playing. So, you know, even the other night, the piano player that played with us at first, you know, my phrasing was kind of throwing him off. You know? So I said... Well, when I met Annie Ross, [of] Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, I loved that group, you know? Annie said to me, "Joan, how do I put this to you? Don't forget where one is." So, I turned to him, and I said, "You got a problem with my phrasing?" I said, "You know, don't forget where one is." I said, "You know, just play solid. And, you know, and I'll come in where I'm going to come in." But anyway, after that, I sang a little more on the downbeat for him. [laughing]

Dr. Carla Hayden: It's a little different. A little different.

Well, so many of your songs are timeless. And last night there were people that were rocking out to one song, crying on another song. Everybody was circling in the game and all of that.

Joni Mitchell: [laughs]

Dr. Carla Hayden: Why do you think... and in fact, one lady said, "We used to sing that at summer camp." You know? "That's like the summer camp thing."

Joni Mitchell: Yeah! "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Circle Game". Yeah. They kind of became like "Old MacDonald Had a Farm, E-I-E-I-O." [laughing]

Dr. Carla Hayden: Well, why do you think they're so timeless? Because people have just latched onto them.

Joni Mitchell: I don't know! Why was Old MacDonald had a farm so timeless? [laughing]

Dr. Carla Hayden: There's something about it.

Joni Mitchell: Something about it, I guess.

Dr. Carla Hayden: So, when you started with the music, did you continue with the painting? Because some of the things in the images that were on the stage last night were your paintings, and they were just brilliant and gorgeous. How did you balance that with making the music and then when you still retain the art?

Joni Mitchell: It's kind of like an old farmer's trick. It's like I've never had a writer's block because I-- What do you call it? Summer-follow. I make the record, and then after the record, they want an album cover. So I thought, "Well, you know, I'm trained as a commercial artist. I may as well use it." So, I do my own album covers, you know. And then, I started carrying paper cameras. I had good cameras, but they kept getting stolen. I had a Hasselblad - got stolen. A Nikkormat - got stolen. So, I started carrying those disposable paper cameras. And they were really good for preliminary sketches because they eliminated a lot of detail. So, I'd take pictures and I'd do my paintings from these pictures.  And, as a result, my house is, the walls are lined with moments where I just went, "Oh my God, that's beautiful." You know, I look and see something so beautiful. And with this paper camera, I could capture it and go home and paint it later. [laughs]

Dr. Carla Hayden: Even painted some of your cats--

Joni Mitchell: So, the art world kind of frowned on that kind of source material thing, but I see no problem with it.

Dr. Carla Hayden: I heard that you also paint some of your - have painted some of your cats.

Joni Mitchell: Yeah! All but one. I've got a new cat. I haven't painted him yet. That's my next painting. [laughs]

Dr. Carla Hayden: So they're actually on the walls.

Joni Mitchell: Yeah. So they're all alive and well all around the house. It's really nice. There's one that was in the show where I'm in the swimming pool with a ball, that's all fluted, you know, so you could throw it around in the house. It wouldn't break anything. And my dog was crazy about this ball and so was my cat, my cat's reaching for the ball and the dog's standing at the other end waiting for it. I love that painting because they're both dead now, the cat and the dog, and it brings back memories of both of them. Yeah. So, my house is full of memories as I go around. My grandson and his father in a restaurant. My grandson's bored out of his mind, you know. Father's tipsy. [laughs]

Dr. Carla Hayden: So if someone were to ask you, which I'm getting ready to do,

Joni Mitchell: Ok.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Would you consider yourself a musician or an artist first?

Joni Mitchell: I think artist, because it's more general, you know, I think that, you know, my songs are kind of, they're not folk music, they're not jazz. They're kind of art songs and they embody classical things and jazzy things and folky things, you know, long line poetry. So yeah, I forged my identity very early as an artist. I've always thought of myself as an artist, but not specifically as a musician. You know, in some ways I'm just not a normal musician because I play in open tunings. I never learned the neck of my guitar well enough to jam with other people. I can jam if I lead, but I can't really follow. [laughs]

Dr. Carla Hayden: That's not a bad place to be. So, all the love, all the accolades and everything, what would you say was the best compliment you've ever had, where somebody just...?

Joni Mitchell: That's easy. I was in a restaurant that was owned by an integrated couple from New Orleans. They opened a kind of a New Orleans-style restaurant in LA, and they hired a black, blind piano player to play during the meals. And as I passed by him, he said to me, "Joni, you make raceless, genderless music." I thought that was the best compliment I ever got. [laughs] [applause] And the other one I liked was this bouncer in Chicago in a club. You know, I walked in. He was a big, burly man. He picked me up off the ground and swung me around and he said, "Joni, I wouldn't understand women at all if it wasn't for you." [laughs] [applause] Yeah, those are my two favorite compliments.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Those are pretty good. Those are pretty good. Well, we also last night had a photo of you with a teacher you said really taught you how to love words.

Joni Mitchell: Oh, Kratzmann.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Yeah, Kratzmann.

Joni Mitchell: You know, we liked him. He was an Australian. He was kind of... He was a character, but he... The year before he was my teacher... He was my teacher in the sixth grade, and in the fifth grade I was pinning up drawings for a parent-teacher day and he saw that, and he said, "You like to paint?" I said, "Yes, I do." He said, "Well, if you can paint with a brush, you can paint with words." So, in that act, he gave me permission to do both, which George O'Keefe, when I met her, said, "I would have liked to have been a musician, too. But you can't do both." You know? And I said, "Yeah, you can! You just have to give up TV." [laughing]

Dr. Carla Hayden: Georgia O'Keeffe?

Joni Mitchell: Yeah.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Wow.

Joni Mitchell: Yeah. Yeah. I stayed with her for a while. She was a character. [laughs]

Dr. Carla Hayden: That's an understatement, I think.

Joni Mitchell:  Yeah, she's really funny. She used to say, "Joni, is that you?" [laughing] Yeah. She was. She was very elitist.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Oh, yes. Well, you met so many people. Are there some other characters that you could tell us about.

Joni Mitchell: Oh, I'm a magnet. There's Cary right there. There's a character. [applause] Sauchuen right there, there's another.

Dr. Carla Hayden: There's two together, huh,

Joni Mitchell: Frank. Another character. I'm surrounded by characters.

Dr. Carla Hayden: You like characters? Well, I have to ask you this one, though. In fact, the people in my, the staff members in my-- that work in the music department and you got to see some of them today. They were showing you some treasures and everything like that. The number-one question they wanted to know is, how do you feel about music today?

Joni Mitchell: Oh. Well, I went up to my little stone cabin in British Columbia and I set the radio to a different radio station every day. And I tried my best to like it. [laughing] I changed the station every day, and it just got worse and worse and worse. No, you know, I like-- I don't even know the songs of my generation. I know the songs of my parent's generation: Gershwin, I know a lot of Gershwin lyrics and melodies, especially. He had beautiful melodies and-- No, I think. I think it's kind of... Folk music changed pop music in that [it] introduced long, longer poetic lines than other generations of songwriters. And you could impart more information in those lines than [in] the earlier songs. But--the station that I listen to now on the internet, you know, there's a lot of Duke Ellington and I like the swing era, I think is my favorite musical era.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Well, I think you've told them what they wanted to know. [laughing] I think they might have -- there might be some sympathy and empathy with you on that one. So, they all told then they got real, like futuristic and said, "Well, what are there any themes or things that you might want to explore?"  Because you are always still thinking and producing and--

Joni Mitchell: Well, I'm kind of stumped right now. I mean, I haven't written for a while. I've got one song almost finished lyrically, but no music for it yet. I've got a few ideas for songs, but I haven't really had the discipline to sit down and develop them. I have ideas of things I want to paint, though, on the other hand. That's what I'd like to do next. I want to paint my cat. I want to paint. Sauchuen and I in Washington, the last time we were here with the Capitol building all lit up behind us. That's going to make a nice painting. And what else? And Kiva, Marcy's dog just died. And he was a beautiful guy. So, I want to do a portrait of him. Yeah.

Dr. Carla Hayden: And the others will come. The other themes and things as you. Work stuff out.

Joni Mitchell: I don't really know what to write in terms of songs. I mean, you know, we need a positive. Ee need moral instruction. All of us do, kind of, in these times, you know? It seems to have -- the world seems to have lost its way. So, to write songs along those lines is a big responsibility. I would have to crack the books with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who's the brightest man I ever met, you know, and the most spiritually profound. Maybe if I read him again, I get some ideas, you know?

Dr. Carla Hayden: Well, your music certainly brought people together last night.

Joni Mitchell: It did. Last night we brought --

Dr. Carla Hayden: It was quite something.

Joni Mitchell: The dueling politicians together. [laughs] [applause]

Dr. Carla Hayden: It was quite impressive. We had bipartisan karaoke. It was something to see.

Joni Mitchell: [laughs] Bipartisan Karaoke. That's a good name for an album. [laughs] Maybe that gives me an idea.

Dr. Carla Hayden: That it could be it because you sure did it. And it was a delight to see it. I think they felt that, too. The love was flowing all over the place.

Joni Mitchell: Bipartisan karaoke.  That's a good one!

Dr. Carla Hayden: You could have a Joni Jam with them. That would be something. So when you talked about Gershwin and this is part of the Gershwin Award thing, what is your favorite? Do you have a favorite Gershwin song?

Joni Mitchell: "Summertime".

Dr. Carla Hayden: It's "Summertime". What is it about "Summertime"?

Joni Mitchell: I love the melody of it and I like the simplicity of it. And I don't know, I just I really get a kick out of singing it.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Now with the-- Well, we have a little surprise for you. That relates to that. Yeah. Sue Vita and the music department, they suspected that. Now, if you had said another song, this would not have worked. [laughs] We kind of thought that was your favorite song.

Joni Mitchell: Yeah. It wasn't "The Man I Love." [laughing]

Dr. Carla Hayden: I'm letting that go.

Joni Mitchell: Good.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Yeah. Sue?

Susan H. Vita: So, Joni. We normally, when we have this conversation, we like to give the person who granted us the wisdom and the joy and all of the things that you've taught us a gift. And in honor of the singing of "Summertime" last night we have a...

Joni Mitchell: Oh, my goodness!

Susan H. Vita: This is "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess from 1935, presented to Joni Mitchell, recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song 2023. And what is inside here is--

Joni Mitchell: The original score? Oh, my God. Oh, is that what it is?

Dr. Carla Hayden: Joni, we love you, but. [laughing]

Susan H. Vita: This is a facsimile.

Dr. Carla Hayden: It's a facsimile.

Joni Mitchell: Wow!

Susan H. Vita: This is the title page in George Gershwin's hand, Porgy and Bess,

Joni Mitchell: Signed by him.

Susan H. Vita: And then fast forward into the Porgy and Bess score to this place right here. Which is the start of, what? Can you read that?

Joni Mitchell: [sings] "Summertime and the living is easy." [laughs] [applause] Oh, wow!

Susan H. Vita: So, this is actually a very interesting piece of calligraphy as well as music. [to stagehand] Thank you. Thank you very much.

Joni Mitchell: Don't fall over!

Dr. Carla Hayden: The music department. It's pretty exciting.

Susan H. Vita: [laughs] there's Meaning in that. Don't fall over. I fell over at her house, broke my head.

Dr. Carla Hayden: The music department gets pretty excited when they meet people like Joni. Trust me.

Susan H. Vita: I can't really walk, but... So the iconic lullaby "Summertime" is from the first act of Porgy and Bess. And George spent more time on this score than on any other of his works. He spent 20 months. [adjusts microphone] Sorry. That was the hit on the head. I couldn't... [laughs]

He spent 20 months from the beginning of 1934, right until before its premiere in 1935. And the completed manuscript, which is this Facsimile comes from, is not only a masterpiece of music and drama and composition, but a masterpiece of calligraphy as well. And he put his whole heart and soul into it. And so I hope you enjoy that.

Joni Mitchell: Oh, it's beautiful.  It's a treasure

Susan H. Vita: Thank you. I'm going to leave this. [applause]

Dr. Carla Hayden: You want to give her that? And also we really want to you know, at different times, some of us have not been pinned, but we got a special pin for you.

Susan H. Vita: So with every new Congress they create. I don't know if you know this or not. You can tell Congress people from lapel pins that they wear, and those are created at the beginning of every Congress. They they do 435 of them. They give one to each member of Congress -- and I'm struggling here, trying to get this apart and they wear them on their lapels -- and so we took that idea and we took the Gershwin Prize medallion and we've created this medallion, this lapel pin -

Joni Mitchell: Oh, beautiful!

Susan H. Vita: For the honorees of the Gershwin Prize. And I'm going to pin it on you right now. [applause]

Joni Mitchell: Yeah. Well, put it on my hat.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Oh, on your hat. That's really cool! All right. That's going to give him a little twist in D.C. Because those pins are, you see the pins and they walk around everything, and now they'll see Joni. [applause] Joni, we know you like California, but we might need you in D.C. We need you in D.C. You need to come back more often.

Joni Mitchell: Oh, thank you, darling.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Yeah. You bring us together and you have-- Oh, look. I think you get a lot of votes. Well, we just want all of us want you to know how much we appreciate you and love you and are so thankful that you spent this time with us.

Joni Mitchell: Oh, no we've had -

Dr. Carla Hayden: You spent several days as part of the Gershwin Prize with us. And you've been so generous with your time and, of course, your talent. You even sang an extra song at the concert. Anybody can guess what it was?

Joni Mitchell: "Circle Game".

Dr. Carla Hayden: "Circle Game", everybody. How many of you know "The Circle Game"? How many of you would like to sing it to Joni? Okay, okay. Now we really got a problem. Who's going to lead it off? [laughs] Joni, could you?

Joni Mitchell: You want me to lead it off?

Dr. Carla Hayden: Yeah, because they're all going to sing.

Joni Mitchell: How does it start?

Dr. Carla Hayden: Okay, somebody do it. Start with the chorus. Start with the chorus.  Why not?

Joni Mitchell: "Circle game... And the seasons are - "

Dr. Carla Hayden: She was going to do "Summertime". No, we were going to do the Circle--but she--

Joni Mitchell: I started in "Summertime". I got confused.

Dr. Carla Hayden: "Circle Game" because all these people know about.

Joni Mitchell: Okay.

Marcy Gensic: "And the seasons..."

Joni Mitchell: [singing] "They go round and round and the painted ponies Go up and down We're captive on the carousel of time We can't return We can only look Behind from where we came and go round and Round and round in the circle game."

Dr. Carla Hayden: All right! [applause] That's better than a campfire. We'll do it. But you were going to break into "Summertime".

Joni Mitchell: I know!

Dr. Carla Hayden: You were all the way there. You could sing it. You could do one little song just a little bit.

Joni Mitchell: Okay. [Singing] "Summertime and the living is easy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is high"...

Dr. Carla Hayden: All right!

Joni Mitchell: "Your daddy's rich And your mama's so good looking. So hush, little baby, don't you cry". [applause]

[laughs] That was fun, eh?  Thank you. Thank you. Okay. Here comes my man. Okay. Wow! [cheering and applause] Hey, you. Hey, you. Oh, boy. Okay, I am gonna leave. Yeah. Okay.

Dr. Carla Hayden: Thank all of you. Thank you so much. [applause]

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