Joni Mitchell went to Woodstock

pop - Joni Mitchell - The woman who came out of the cold

"We come and go unrecognized", Joni Mitchell sang in 1976 in the song "Hejira". And it is simple wisdom like this one from 1976 that made the woman from Alberta, Canada, an affair of the heart for all sensitive people. Many dismissed her as a folkie, but that would not do justice to Roberta Joan Anderson, the daughter of an Air Force officer and a teacher.

Joni Mitchell's soprano pranced on angel heights and in dark valleys

Because her music is complex, she prefers unusual chord changes, "Joni's weird chords", while listening to an album for the tenth time, the listener discovered new finesse. What began in March 1968 with the indeed folky “Songs for a Seagull”, an album consisting only of voice and openly tuned acoustic guitar, soon reached jazzy qualities when she worked with Tom Scott in 1974 and, above all, three years later with Charles Mingus . On November 7th, Joni Mitchell, the queen of songwriters, will be 75 years old.

And what a voice it was: a dancing soprano who paraded on angel heights as well as in dark valleys. A singer who started a song as if she had been in the middle of it forever, as if she were singing it without a beginning or an end. Some of them were deeply touched by her defenseless personal lines, which, from a young age, seemed so wise, as if they could remember the experiences of many previous lives.

Mitchell had actually experienced a lot there that nobody knew for a long time: survived polio, born a child in 1965 and put it up for adoption. Mitchell looked as delicate as glass on stage, with blond, long hair and those prominent cheekbones that testified to her father's Norwegian origins.

With the weight of her name, Joni Mitchell sang against injustice

David Crosby had seen her at a concert in Florida, fell in love and recorded the "seagull songs" with her. Mitchell was supposed to play in Woodstock, it didn't work, and yet she wrote the hymn about the great moment of the flower children - first sung by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, then, more fragile, by herself. Five and a half minutes of pure life.

What she thought of the commerce of the music industry comes to fruition early on in “Big Yellow Taxi” from 1970: “They paved paradise to create a parking lot,” Mitchell sings. She herself was a seeker who refused to be talked into the creative process. And the protest with the weight of her name sang against religious rights, against environmental degradation or for the disadvantaged First Nations.

In addition to jazz, she later fused her folk with gospel, rhythm and blues, rock, world music and even with synthesizer sounds. And she created immortal albums like “Blue” (1971), “Court and Spark” (1974), “Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm” (1988) and “Night Ride Home” (1991), where she sang about that all of her endeavors were aimed at one thing - "to come in from the cold".

Meeting with the daughter - Joni was finally out of the cold

The feeling of finally being "inside" came in 1997 when she found her daughter again and made up with her. After that, she lost interest in songwriting, she revealed in interviews. “Both Sides Now” (2002) contained mainly jazz standards, the double album “Travelogue” (2002) consisted of orchestral reworking of older songs.

It was not until the last album "Shine" (2007) that there were new pieces by Mitchell again - similarly spartan orchestrated as the early work, only the voice had long since been covered by a pleasant patina, a hoarse, old chain smoker. It was Mitchell's last music before she devoted herself entirely to painting. In February 2015 she told the trade magazine "Rolling Stone" that she was a "painter who writes songs".

One month later, Joni Mitchell suffered a stroke, from the consequences of which she still suffers today. It is still expected in the audience when the concert "Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration Live" takes place on November 6th and 7th in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, where stars like Rufus Wainwright, Norah Jones, Emmylou Harris, Chaka Khan, Kris Kristofferson and Seal Mitchell want to sing songs.

Mitchell is one of the greatest - and yet by no means known to everyone

For some, Joni Mitchell is one of the best and most influential songwriters of the 20th century, a woman to whom Prince, George Michael and Elvis Costello referred, without whom there would be no future class singers like Tori Amos, Diana Krall or Alanis Morissette. The others just have their melancholy “Woodstock” in their ears.

These others may have heard of her in the romance comedy "Actually ... Love". As a Joni Mitchell fan Karen, Emma Thompson receives the new Mitchell album from her film husband Harry (Alan Rickman), while he gives his secretary the jewels she had actually expected. He ran after the young charms, he misjudged his great love - a moment of sublime sadness and ridiculousness. As Mitchell sang in “Hejira”: “We come and go unrecognized”.

By Matthias Halbig / RND