the incandescent Joni Mitchell

As a girl, Joni grew up near the wheat fields of Saskatchewan, Canada, before heading east to Toronto where she lived in a rooming house and played musical gigs in church basements and YMCA meeting halls. To pay her rent, she worked in a downtown department store in women’s wear. It was 1964, and her intention was to become a folk singer.

Just south of the border in New York City and having already made a name for himself in the coffee houses and folk clubs of Greenwich Village … and at the Newport and Monterey Folk Festivals and elsewhere, a young man was recording his fourth album in a Columbia Records studio. His name was Bob Dylan, and he was 23 years old. Eleven years later, the paths of Joni Mitchell and Dylan would cross.

1975. Here they are in Gordon Lightfoot’s house in Toronto, Dylan moodily playing guitar and Joni confidently performing her new song, Coyote.

Flawless and peerless.

For the first and only time in his life, Dylan found himself face to face with his equal. He looks quietly discombobulated. Now famous, the 31-year old Joni is in complete control. She had to be, in that male-dominated musical world. (The song, incidentally, is about Sam Shepard’s advances towards her during the Rolling Thunder Revue concert tour of 75.)

David Crosby, of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, said this about Mitchell – “She’s as good a poet as Bob, and she’s ten times the musician and singer than he is.”

Footage from “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese”

9 thoughts on “the incandescent Joni Mitchell

      • She played in Boulder, Colorado while I was living either in Denver or Greeley. A big group of us went together. Once, a friend and I introduced her daughter to Joni, and I mentioned the concert. The friend said, “Lori, I was with you.” I hadn’t remembered!! It was, after all, the 70’s..,

      • LOL! Right on. The 70s … a bit of a blur … and hazy, too, through all that marijuana smoke. Ha ha! I don’t remember much, but what I do remember is fantastic, the music especially.

  1. A lifetime favourite. Had the pleasure of meeting her (she has a home on the coast where I live and she used to spend a fair bit of time here) and she is lovely. So much of my life has been in the company of her music.

    • I re-listened to Woodstock yesterday.
      “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden …” Yes, we do. Urgently.
      And how about “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” as an album-song title?
      She was just as good as Dylan.

  2. Women rarely get the credit they deserve. She was certainly among the greats. I’m happy that many of her male peers have at least recognized her brilliance.

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