DETROIT - "Man, she's got to be the living end," enthused one person who had just been treated to an evening of Joni Mitchell's songs. Just by coincidence, Joni, who writes all her own songs is singing at the Detroit night spot named The Living End.
Joni isn't the only one who sings her own songs, however. Buffy Ste. Marie, Ian and Sylvia, Tom Rush, and several other noted recording artists have appropriated some of Joni's creations.
Joni, a native of Saskatoon, Sask., has had artist's blood in her veins since her high school days, but she just "drifted in" to folk singing. Her pure soprano voice, which inspired a Canadian reviewer to speculate that "she may be the next Baez," was first heard publicly at a Saskatoon coffee house. From there she traveled through the eastern provinces, and settled in Detroit, where she began working at local coffee houses.
IT WASN'T LONG until other places heard of her though, and soon audiences in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Miami were enjoying her music. As long ago as 1965, she was invited to perform at Ontario's Maritosa [sic] Folk Festival - she'll be there again this year - and less than a week ago she sang at the Newport Folk Festival.
Joni is a versatile instrumentalist. She plays guitar, ukelele [sic], and a South American instrument called the tiple, which she describes as "a ten-stringed country cousin to the uke."
However, her diversity is most apparent in her songs. Joni admits to beginning with "the standard girl's songs - of maidens in distress and handsome sailors," but now she writes her own material. She describes her songs as "basically Mitchell but influenced by people like Debussy, the Beatles, Judy Collins, the Blues Project and Kimo Ito."
WHATEVER THEY ARE influenced by, when Joni sings her songs she gives an evening of entertainment that is well-worth hearing. Audience reactions range from silent reflection on her sad "Who Has Seen the Wind" to broad smiles when she sings, "Dr. Junk the Dentist Man."
She has a childlike quality compounded of equal parts of innocence, shyness, and enthusiasm. She says it's because she's a part of what she calls "the back to the sandbox movement." Joni explains that "the movement which includes dropping sophisticated pretenses and enjoying funny things like dressing up in fun clothes."
Joni will be leaving Detroit next week, headed for the West Coast. She plans to return to the Living End in October, though. Meanwhile, she'll be there tonight and tomorrow night.
There isn't a better bargain in Detroit this weekend than Joni's act. For Ann Arborites who don't know, The Living End is on the John Lodge Service Drive just above Seward. So, since there's nothing happening in Ann Arbor this weekend, take a nice ride into Detroit and see Joni. She's well worth it.
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