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Spotlight on Joni Mitchell: An Appreciation of a Legend

When I was 14 there were two singer-songwriters that I heard for the first time who were to have an influence on me several years later. One was Janis Ian and the other was Joni Mitchell.

I would listen to the Top 40 on Radio 1 on a Sunday evening without fail, and there was a show on before it where someone famous would play their favourite tracks. I would usually have a recordable cassette on hand to record songs I liked, and on this show someone (unfortunately I can’t remember who) played Joni Mitchell’s “Hejira”. There was something haunting about the introduction and the first verse that drew me in so I started recording it.

So began my fascination for Joni Mitchell. A couple of years later I looked for an album so that I could hear more of her songs and found the live compilation Shadows and Light. I was struck by the variety of her songwriting, from ballads like “Amelia” to jazz (e.g. “The drycleaner from Des Moines”) and the acapella title track.

It was Janis Ian that triggered my renewed interest in songwriting in my late 20s, but in a book I borrowed from the library on the subject the author analysed Mitchell’s “Marcie” as an example of how to use themes and rhymes. I looked for the album that it appeared on (Song to a Seagull) and bought it on CD.

I fell in love with the album and to date it’s still my favourite (I also have Hejira, Ladies of the Canyon and Blue as well as Shadows and Light).

I have still to explore her jazz influenced and later music, which I would like to do out of curiosity. She is one of those artists who seems to have stood the test of time, and her music still sounds as fresh as it must have done 50 years ago.

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