You may already know that I have an eclectic taste in music, as I have mentioned being a fan of Nat King Cole, Aaron Copland, and Beethoven. I bet you had no idea that I was a Joni Mitchell fan. I didn’t grow up as a fan, I never owned one of her albums, and I never intentionally listened to her music until about 15 years ago when I watched a documentary about her. I came to appreciate her journey and how it is conveyed in her music. She has a keen eye and a clever way to share it in her lyrics.
She has been quite prolific over the years and always seemed to be pushing boundaries with her melodies, lyrics and vocal intonations. I think that is one of the reasons that she has been so popular; she has a unique sound. She has been an inspiration for many singer songwriters in a way that maybe Shakespeare inspires playwrights.
As it turns out, the music industry honored her with a concert of her music on her 75th birthday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. I am not sure of all the details, but I believe Joni selected artists to perform her songs for the occasion and the artists are as eclectic and boundary pushing as her music is. Of course, you expect to see the likes of Graham Nash and James Taylor pay tribute to their friend, that seems natural. But some other of my favorite performers, songwriters in their own right, graced the stage with their own arrangements of her songs; this list included Norah Jones, Diana Krall and Los Lobos among others. In addition, there was Chaka Khan, Glen Hansard, and Seal. Video greetings were presented by Peter Gabriel and Elton John on the large screen, as neither were able to attend.
Joni had requested Seal to sing her song “Both Sides Now.” He brought his own style to the performance which helped me to listen more closely to the lyrics than I have in the past. Chaka Khan performed one of Joni’s most recognizable songs, “Help Me” (I think I am falling in love) and you could see the delight in Joni’s eyes as the camera panned over to her with this soulful arrangement to her song.
I found the entire event to be a wonderful tribute to an amazing talent and the body of work that she has given the world. I especially appreciated the fact that she was able to watch and enjoy instead of having to perform and do so with lesser ability than in previous years. I have a philosophy (that probably is not shared by all) that it is sad to watch an aging pop star try to perform their material from 50 years ago. I know, the Rolling Stones still think they have it. In my view, they should stop rolling and watch and encourage others. Please don’t hate me for saying that. For this reason, I loved watching Joni’s expression of joy being entertained by the same music that inspired the artists performing it.