Friday, November 07, 2008

(Gone With) The Wind is in From Africa

Okay, that was sort of a lame title. But there's a reason. Stay tuned.

November 7th finds us celebrating the birthday of one of my favorite recording artists, songwriters, painters... Joni Mitchell turned 65 today but somehow I doubt she rushed to file for Social Security benefits. Parts of the title, of course, are lyrics from one of her biggest commercial hits, "Carey", and Mitchell's fans will know that. Joni has been called "iconoclastic and unconforming", and "restlessly innovative." I can't compete with those articulate descriptives, but I will say that I liked her because she didn't care if her syllable count matched from stanza to stanza. Not every line had to rhyme, not every note had to follow any kind of pattern. She traversed octaves in leaps and bounds, not worried if her vocals were consistent from song to song.

She was born in Alberta, Canada, as Roberta Joan Anderson, and at age 9 contracted polio. Under her mother's care, she recovered and later, taught herself to play the ukulele (she couldn't afford a guitar), attended art school and joined the local folk music set. After making her way to Toronto, she got the "Mitchell" from ex-husband Chuck, whom she married in 1965. The couple relocated to Detroit, then parted ways and Joni found herself in New York and making a record for Reprise with help from David Crosby. Stardom followed, and her 1970's Ladies of the Canyon brought forth both "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock", the now-infamous cover of which went on to become a huge launch for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

It occurs to me at this point that I couldn't possibly paint a viable picture of Joni on such a small canvas, and those hungry for more about his talented woman should check out this immensely consuming page about her life, works and many talents. Contained therein is the surprising revelation about a 43 year old daughter, alluded to in song but never acknowledged until the 1990's.

For the record, my personal favorites include "A Case of You", "Little Green" and "Free Man in Paris". Although I haven't personally heard her live for many, many years, I understand her voice has been diminished from her 56 years of smoking (yes, she admits to starting at 9 years old.) Check out for more.
Come back tomorrow for Part Two….

No comments: