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In praise of Joni Mitchell Print-ready version

by Nick Tate
Atlanta Journal and Constitution
May 19, 2000

Tonight at 8. $30-$80. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive N.W. 404-233-2227 or 404-249-6400,

Ancient history: Born Roberta Joan Anderson on Nov. 7, 1943, in Alberta, Canada. Moved to Toronto in 1964 after studying art in Calgary and married Chuck Mitchell a year later. Coffeehouse and folk club gigs allowed her to debut original songs, including "The Circle Game, " written as a response to fellow Canadian Neil Young's ode to lost innocence, "Sugar Mountain."

Accolades: "She is definitely one of my greatest influences," offers Speech, co-founder of the Grammy-winning Atlanta rap group Arrested Development. "What I like most about her is, her lyrics are so real-life. She notices the simple things in life and makes them sound so profound. I imitate that in my own songwriting. If someone wanted to run out today and get what I think is the best introduction to Joni Mitchell, I'd say get 'Ladies of the Canyon.' You can't help but come away from that with a definite appreciation for her vocal arrangements and her vocal and lyrical ability."

On the Web: Perhaps one of the finest musician sites out there --- --- was created by the late Wally Breese and is currently managed by Jim Johanson. Updated nearly every day, it has an amazing number of links --- to conversations with Mitchell, articles about her and even a gallery of her paintings. It is so revered, and interacted with, by Mitchell's fans that the site was even instrumental in Mitchell's reunion with her daughter.

A memorable April note on a recent article: "The May issue of Downbeat magazine features Joni on the cover and contains an interview with her they' ve dubbed 'Jazz Romance.' They describe her as 'an artist transformed, with the phrasing, intonation and timbre of a classic jazz singer in the mold of Billie Holiday, but with a swagger and intelligence all her own,' detailing how she came to perform an album with a complete orchestra.

Of her interaction with the players: 'The best analogy that I can come up with is surfing,' Joni says. A whimsical exchange near the end of the interview has Joni thinking that 'Maybe we could make (the tour) like a black-and-white movie, with the curtain going up. . . . People don't dress for the theater anymore. This show would be a nice occasion to dress up.' I'd better go dust off that tux."

Did you know: Mitchell was a driving force in bringing together Graham Nash, David Crosby and Stephen Stills --- though none of the principals can agree (or remember!) just how or where. Crosby has maintained that Mitchell's Laurel Canyon, Calif., home was where CSN first sang together in 1968. Stills has argued that it was in the home of Cass Elliot or John Sebastian. And Nash has said it was either Mitchell's or Cash's. In Dave Zimmer's new band biography, "Crosby, Stills & Nash" (Da Capo Press, $18), Mitchell fails to settle the issue, declaring, "They're all right!"

Inspirations: Graham Nash's hit song "Our House" --- from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's "Deja Vu" album --- was written to celebrate his one-time romance with Mitchell. She also inspired parts of Crosby' s "Guinnevere." First daughter Chelsea Clinton is named after Mitchell' s effervescent "Chelsea Morning." And though she never played Woodstock, her song by that name was to become perhaps the best-known chronicle of that 1969 gathering.

Tributes: A recently televised Joni Mitchell tribute concert at New York's famed Hammerstein Ballroom drew big names in pop, rock, jazz and soul in a show that honored the Canadian master. Many performers, including Cyndi Lauper, James Taylor, Richard Thompson, Elton John, Wynonna Judd and Diana Krall, cited her as being a major influence in music and in their own careers.

Recommended recordings: Fans will argue endlessly over whether Mitchell's best work is the spare early recordings (best typified by 1971's classic "Blue"), her pop albums (such as 1974's "Court and Spark") or her jazzier forays (including 1976's "Hejira" and 1979' s "Mingus"). An easy way to sample the range is her 1996 companion releases "Hits" and "Misses," which include both what did well the first time round and overlooked gems she wanted listeners to hear again.

--- Nick Tate, Sonia Murray, Eileen Drennen,

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Added to Library on February 27, 2001. (7989)


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kariba911 on

Hello World, I am new to this site and am unable to post my comments under one of the concerts I was fortunate enough to experience. I've only seen Joni twice, once at GA Tech and secondly at Chastain Amphitheatre in 2000. First let me say, I am a musician and in my opinion Joni Mitchell is the greatest songwriter of all times. She has influenced me in so many ways. I first heard her music back in 1975 or 1976 when I was going through some "rough times" and I accredit Joni in getting me through those times. Joni saved my life! I have a bucket list and meeting Joni Mitchell and "jamming" with her is at the very top of the list.