Joni Mitchell A Portrait in Song - A Birthday Happening Live at Massey Hall

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Joni Mitchell is a restlessly innovative artist in every sense. From "Both Sides Now" and Blue to Court and Spark and "Coyote" and on through today, she has confounded expectations as a songwriter and musician. Her music has evolved from folk into pop, jazz, avant-garde, and even world music. Her lyrics are like a great poet painting with words, and her visual artwork offers the excitement of new ways of seeing.

Joni Mitchell, (born Roberta Joan Anderson; November 7, 1943) is a Canadian musician, singer songwriter, andpainter. Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in Saskatchewan and Western Canada and then busking in the streets and dives of Toronto. In 1965 she moved to the United States and, touring constantly, began to be recognized when her original songs ("Urge for Going," "Chelsea Morning," "Both Sides, Now," "The Circle Game") were covered by notable folk singers, allowing her to sign with Reprise Records and record her own debut album in 1968. Settling in Southern California, Mitchell, with popular songs like "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock", helped define an era and a generation. Her more starkly personal 1971 recording Blue has been called one of the best albums ever made. Musically restless, Mitchell switched labels and began moving toward jazz rhythms by way of lush pop textures on 1974's Court and Spark, her best-selling LP, featuring her radio hits "Help  Me" and "Free Man in Paris.”

"My mother raised me on words... Where other parents would quote from the Bible, she would quote from Shakespeare. She was a romantic woman. She encouraged me in all those old-fashioned things. I kept pressed-flower scrap books." Joni's father was an amateur musician who loved swing records and played trumpet in marching bands, and Joni would join in town parades with her father's band and other children.

Many of her childhood friends were taking music lessons, and she would tag along to their performances, where she developed her first musical obsessions: Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Chopin and Beethoven. Much later, the first LP she saved up to buy was Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Mitchell briefly studied classical piano between the ages of 6 and 7. She said, "I wanted to play... I wanted to do what I do now, which is to lay my hand on it and to memorize what comes off of it and to create with it. But my music teacher told me I played by ear which was a sin, you know, and that I would never be able to read these pieces because I memorized things... I didn't fall into the norm for that system, so I dropped that.

At the age of 8, Joni contracted polio during a 1951 epidemic in Canada, the same one in which singer Neil Young, then aged 5 and living in Ontario, also contracted the virus. It was the last major epidemic in North America before Jonas Salk's polio vaccine was successfully tested. Bedridden for weeks in hospital, Joni became aware that she would have to move across the hall and live in an iron lung for the remainder of her life if her condition worsened. As she later described, it was during her time in hospital that winter that she first became interested in singing.  “They said I might not walk again, and that I would not be able to go home for Christmas. I wouldn't go for it. So I started to sing Christmas carols and I used to sing them real loud... The boy in the bed next to me, you know, used to complain. And I discovered I was a ham.”

To celebrate both her 70th birthday and the brilliance of her artistry, the Luminato Festival, working directly with Joni Mitchell, brings together an all-star lineup of musicians and vocalists, interpreting the songs of one of the most important and influential popular artists of the last 50 years. The legendary songstress Joni Mitchell will be attending both concerts.
Massey Hall, Toronto, Ontario

Tuesday, June 18
7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 19
7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Box Office: 416.872.4255.

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