Artists salute groundbreaking Joni Mitchell at pre-Grammy gala

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Las Vegas (AFP) Music legends and hitmakers turned out on Friday to pay their respects to Joni Mitchell — the Canadian-born folk icon behind classics such as “A Case Of You” — at a pre-Grammys charity gala that took place. presented moving tributes and glazed eyes.

Mitchell, 78, donned a sequined kimono-style dress, bejeweled black beret and bright red fingernails at the MusiCares show where artists including Herbie Hancock, Cyndi Lauper, Angelique Kidjo and Stephen Stills, as well as the main This year’s Grammy nominee, Jon Batiste, pays tribute to his vast body of work.

“It’s been quite a year,” the artist known for her distinct contralto and open-chord guitar told reporters on the red carpet.

In December, she was among the inductees at the Kennedy Center Honors gala, one of America’s most prestigious art awards.

The evening marked a rare public appearance for trailblazer Mitchell, who in 2015 suffered a brain aneurysm that left her temporarily unable to speak, the aftermath of which involved intensive physical therapy.

American singer-actor Billy Porter performs ‘Both Sides Now’ at the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year gala honoring Joni Mitchell ANGELA WEISSAFP

But on Friday she was beaming, telling reporters she had artistic “ideas” even as she continued to focus on improving her health.

The influential artist who inspired everyone from Neil Diamond to Prince is perhaps best known for the intensely personal 1971 album “Blue,” a deep dive into emotional heartbreak.

Last summer, “Blue” hit number one on iTunes on its fiftieth anniversary, even surpassing pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour.”

Mickey Guyton (R) and Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Russell (L) perform
Mickey Guyton (right) and Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Russell (left) perform “For Free” in tribute to Joni Mitchell ANGELA WEISSAFP

Expressing his own amazement at this milestone, Mitchell explained his album’s enduring popularity and recent resurgence: “Maybe people want to take it a step further.”

And to reporters who asked her how she was feeling health-wise, she replied “pretty good”, adding that she had “made some progress”.

“Touch the World”

Jazz great Hancock – who in 2007 released a Mitchell tribute album titled “River: The Joni Letters” – hailed his longtime friend’s artistic “courage”.

Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock performs 'Hejira' at the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year Gala honoring Joni Mitchell
Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock performs ‘Hejira’ at the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year Gala honoring Joni Mitchell ANGELA WEISSAFP

“She bares her soul, but she does it in such a poetic way,” Hancock told AFP on the red carpet, hours before he performed Mitchell’s song “Hejira” on stage. .

He credited Mitchell, who is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, with teaching him “how to listen to the lyrics”.

“Some people – and I’m one of them – when we listen to music, we hear the musical harmonies and textures, and the lyrics sound like gibberish,” he continued.

Yet Mitchell’s “poetry” still strikes him, Hancock said, “No one writes lyrics like Joni.”

“She gave us all the courage to speak the truth,” said performer Billy Porter, who paid tribute to Mitchell by singing his beloved “Both Sides Now” on stage. “Using our art to grow; using our art to heal.”

Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell speaks after accepting the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year award
Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell speaks after accepting the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year award ANGELA WEISSAFP

“To free other people – she’s powerful that way.”

The star-studded gala is an annual tradition of MusiCares, the Recording Academy’s charitable wing that raises money to help musicians in need ahead of the Grammy Awards.

This year’s celebration also featured a moving remote performance of “A Case Of You” by Graham Nash, from folk supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, a band with whom Mitchell has deeply influenced and shared a rich working relationship. .

She’s also dated David Crosby and Nash, and has mined this latest breakup to draw inspiration from a number of songs featuring the seminal “Blue,” including the touching “A Case of You.”

Brandi Carlile and Stephen Stills play
Brandi Carlile and Stephen Stills perform “Woodstock” on stage at the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year Gala Honoring Joni Mitchell ANGELA WEISSAFP

Neil Young appeared in a video message sending Mitchell “lots of love”, while Stephen Stills attended the ceremony in Las Vegas and hailed Mitchell as “one of the great artists in this world”.

“When we were kids, we had a lot of fun trying to figure out the chords she used. Crosby was the best at that,” he told AFP. Crosby produced his debut album, “Song to a Seagull”.

Stills played guitar as Brandi Carlile belted out a frenzied rendition of “Woodstock” during a performance-packed night that left many in the room, Mitchell in particular, with tears streaming down.

“I could retire now and let others do it,” she joked as she accepted her award. “Everyone was splendid.”

” You liked it ? she asked the audience for applause, before joining the artists of the night to sing “The Circle Game” and “Big Yellow Taxi”.

Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell (4th L) stands on stage with performers honoring her, performing a medley of
Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell (4th L) stands on stage with artists honoring her, performing a medley of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and ‘The Circle Game’ ANGELA WEISSAFP

Stills summed up the mood: “God bless you Joni Mitchell, for being in our lives.”