joni

“The wind is in from Africa, last night I couldn’t sleep . . . my fingernails are filthy, I got beach tar on my feet . . .”

Once, the reedy soprano slid up and down her registers as quickly as her fingers slid around on the neck of her guitar.

She had long, straight hair, as fine as mine but very much blonder. It was flung over one shoulder with a deft flip of her head. Slight with a sweet, high voice concealing genius and gravitas.  (Although now I wonder why genius does not routinely speak in a breathy soprano.)  Hippy clothes or terribly cool apparel—cooler as she got older. Never quite settling down but moving in the company of splendid and beautiful musicians. Never quite molded by the commercial music scene but brilliant enough to wedge her way in, to command attention. Singing about quitting the crazy music scene and then going on to write and sing more and again.

Joni Mitchell sang at the Newport Folk Festival Sunday night as a surprise special guest of Brandi Carlile. It was a carefully orchestrated appearance, her first public performance since a stroke and brain aneurysm in 2015. A friend posted an early morning YouTube video on her Facebook feed. I clicked on the link and then got lost down a rabbit hole of videos catching Joni performing song after song—the highlights of her old masterpieces and the kind of standards that I loved to sing—and playing her guitar.  Her voice—low and chesty, a voice that had come back from near death, an old voice so rich with meaning and inference and innuendo that it was like some rich, decadent dessert.

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