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Rufus Wainwright: 'She's still a contrarian spirit' Print-ready version

As told to Martin Aston

MOJO
July 2023

JONI'S JOURNEY over the last few years has been astounding. I first met her on her 70th birthday, not long before her aneurysm. I adored her then, and how Joni's progressed through her trials and tribulations has deepened my love for her. When my husband and I hadn't seen her in a long time because she'd been sick, I was feeling low and negative but all that lifted when Joni walked in, it's like being in the presence of a deity (laughs). I have first-hand knowledge of what a brain injury can do, after my grandmother's stroke, when she became incredibly reclusive and uncommunicative, but Joni is the opposite - through her drive, her work and the people around her who adore her, she's turned her situation into a profoundly positive process. She seems more relaxed to me, more at ease with the world.

I didn't know Joni was going to appear at Newport, but I understand why it was under wraps, like a well orchestrated coup. She was fabulous too. When you think about the story of rock and folk, or popular song, it's like the twilight of the gods; without people like Joni, there wouldn't be a Newport folk festival.

When I last saw Joni, a few weeks ago at her Bel Air house, she was boisterous and joyous. At one point, I told her how amazing her '60s TV appearances were, which I'd watched on YouTube, and she said I was totally wrong, they were all awful! That's typical Joni, she's still a contrarian spirit, which is what we love about her. She was excited about the Gorge show. It deeply touches Joni when people admire her work. She's not afraid to receive love either. But she wears it lightly. She's still warm and funny, and more playful, shall we say, which is probably one of the keys to her success.

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Added to Library on June 1, 2023. (1074)

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