Happy Birthday, Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell—beloved singer, songwriter, poet, artist, and longtime Angeleno—turns 72 today, and we think this occasion is worthy of an appreciation post.
Mitchell, born in Canada, moved to Los Angeles in 1968 at the urging of David Crosby, who produced her debut album, Songs For A Seagull. She quickly became one of the dreamy emblems of the mid-1960s, early '70s Laurel Canyon music scene, which Vanity Fair chronicled in an excellent oral history in March (seriously, spend some time with this if you're interested in L.A. music history from this period; there are far too many wonderful anecdotes to include here). Mitchell told Vanity Fair of her house on Lookout Mountain:
I bought this little house, and David Crosby chided me for it; he said I should have looked around. But I liked that house.The hill behind my house was full of little artificial man-made caves. The house was charming. I paid $36,000 for it, but I paid it off. I probably paid more for it because I paid it off. It had a fireplace and it was mysteriously protected by a force. My neighbors, who were six feet from my house, were junkies; I was out of town and came back and their house had burned down to the ground.
Her descriptions of Laurel Canyon are beautiful:
My dining room looked out over Frank Zappa's duck pond, and once when my mother was visiting, three naked girls were floating around on a raft in the pond. My mother was horrified by my neighborhood. In the upper hills the Buffalo Springfield were playing, and in the afternoon there was just a cacophony of young bands rehearsing. At night it was quiet except for cats and mockingbirds. It had a smell of eucalyptus, and in the spring, which was the rainy season then, a lot of wildflowers would spring up. Laurel Canyon had a wonderful distinctive smell to it.
In a 1986 interview, Mitchell spoke candidly about the perils of fame and unwanted celebrity. She said that doing her own grocery shopping was a source of comfort to her, and to those around her. "Some people like it. It makes them feel at ease," she said. "It confirms their hopes that you are in fact, similar to them."
We could go on and on about Mitchell's influence and accomplishments, and praise the enduring beauty of her classic albums like Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, and Court and Spark. Instead, let's allow Mitchell's artistry to speak for itself with this performance of "My Old Man (my personal favorite):
Earlier this year, Mitchell was found unconscious in her home, and it was later revealed that she had suffered a brain aneurysm. Her friend, fellow singer-songwriter Judy Collins wrote in a Facebook post last month that Joni is still recovering, but making progress; she said that Mitchell is "walking, talking, painting some, doing much rehab every day." This is excellent news.
So happy birthday, Joni. You're the best.