Watch Joni Mitchell Sing an Immaculate Version of Her Song “Coyote,” with Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn & Gordon Lightfoot (1975)

Joni Mitchell doesn’t like to do inter­views, but once she starts to open up, she real­ly opens up, not only about her own strug­gles but about her feel­ings towards her fel­low artists. These are often decid­ed­ly neg­a­tive. Maybe she took a cue from her per­son­al hero, Miles Davis (who, it turned out secret­ly owned all her albums). Mitchell matched his lev­el of caus­tic com­men­tary in 2010 when she told the L.A. Times that Bob Dylan “is not authen­tic at all. He’s a pla­gia­rist, and his name and voice are fake. Every­thing about Bob is a decep­tion.”

Attempts to clar­i­fy fell flat with the most back­hand­ed of com­pli­ments. “I like a lot of Bob’s songs, though musi­cal­ly he’s not very gift­ed.” If any musi­cian has earned the right to crit­i­cize him… In any case, what­ev­er she thought of Dylan dur­ing her mid-sev­en­ties peri­od, when she record­ed and released her dense­ly exper­i­men­tal The Hiss­ing of Sum­mer Lawns and Court and Spark, she was hap­py to join the 1975 Bob Dylan Rolling Thun­der Revue.

Mar­tin Scors­ese cap­tured the tour, which played small­er, more inti­mate venues than Dylan had in years. The doc­u­men­tary, Rolling Thun­der Revue: A Bob Dylan Sto­ry by Mar­tin Scors­ese, was only released last year. Dylan may have been the head­lin­er, but this is also a Joni Mitchell sto­ry, and a Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, and oth­er artists’ sto­ry. In the clip above, Mitchell plays a new song, “Coy­ote,” at Gor­don Lightfoot’s house, with Dylan and McGuinn join­ing in on gui­tar. Her per­for­mance is immac­u­late, full of con­fi­dence and nuance. McGuinn leans for­ward before she begins to intro­duce the song for Joni, mansplain­ing into the mic, “Joni wrote this song about this tour and on this tour and for this tour.”

Mitchell says noth­ing, but fans will know she wrote the song about Sam Shep­ard and first intro­duced it onstage dur­ing The Hiss­ing of Sum­mer Lawns tour. They’ll also rec­og­nize it as the first song on Mitchell’s 1976 album Heji­ra. The stu­dio ver­sion, above, is still dri­ven by her acoustic gui­tar but incor­po­rates per­cus­sion and Mitchell’s ser­pen­tine vocal line entwines with Jaco Pastorius’s bass. Lyri­cal­ly, the song is full of dusty, for­lorn images like the set­tings of Shepard’s plays. How McGuinn could have thought that it was about Dylan’s tour is beyond me. But Mitchell nev­er need­ed any­one else to speak for her.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Joni Mitchell Pub­lish­es a Book of Her Rarely Seen Paint­ings & Poet­ry

See Clas­sic Per­for­mances of Joni Mitchell from the Very Ear­ly Years–Before She Was Even Named Joni Mitchell (1965/66)

How Joni Mitchell Wrote “Wood­stock,” the Song that Defined the Leg­endary Music Fes­ti­val, Even Though She Wasn’t There (1969)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (24)
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  • kevin j garner says:

    I’ve always liked the way she does that one

  • Andrew says:

    Great footage!

  • dee franiewski says:

    This entire lp is extra­or­di­nary. Jaco’s bass…what can i say.…to be a fly on the wall.…

  • MaryAnn Brown says:

    What a gor­geous live per­for­mance!! The album “Heji­ra” is one of Joni Mitchell’s great­est works. She writes about being on the road, but sug­gests that she is trav­el­ing not with The Rolling Thun­der Revue (which she did do) but alone, in search of some­thing intan­gi­ble. Coy­ote is such a great song. She sings of being on “the road to Bal­jen­ni (sp) near my old home­town,” which IS in Cana­da as is Gor­don Lightfoot’s home, where she per­forms in this video (along with Dylan and McGuinn.) Sam Shep­ard was on the RT Revue, invit­ed by Dylan to write about the big exper­i­ment. So, who knows when she wrote Coy­ote, but it is a great song. Anoth­er song to men­tion from “Heji­ra” is “Refuge of the Roads” about her stop in Boul­der to see Chogyam Trung­pa Rin­poche, the great­Ti­betan Bud­dhist teacher and head of a lin­eage whose spir­i­tu­al teach­ings he brought to Amer­i­ca in the late 60s/early 70s. “I met a man of spir­it, He drank and wom­an­ized, I sat before his san­i­ty, I was hold­ing back from cry­ing; He saw my com­pli­ca­tions and he mir­rored me back sim­pli­fied, And we laughed how our per­fec­tion would always be denied. Heart and Humor and Humil­i­ty, he said will light­en up your heavy load, I left him then for the Refuge of the Roads.” The lyrics are per­fect and the music is too, with Joni and Jaco in the stu­dio. Trung­pa was known for his drink­ing and wom­an­iz­ing, but he was also a great teacher who brought his much need­ed “crazy wis­dom” to the West. 💖

  • Julie Frazier says:




    The old fart was hid­ing in smelly robes to deceive naive girls.

  • Steve McClain says:

    Dis­re­spect­ing Bob Dylan. She’s just jeal­ous that he’s con­sid­ered the song­writ­ers Leg­end of all time and nly half a dozen peo­ple even know who she is.

    She’s a great artist in her own right but a great human being would­n’t feel the need to rag on some­body else. It’s not some­thing Dylan him­self would ever do.

    There there, Joni. You’ll nev­er be in his League. But you still have your own lit­tle place in the his­to­ry of Rock.

    There are oth­er edi­tions of you, but there will nev­er be anoth­er Bob Dylan.

  • Bruce Stanley says:

    How old are you?
    Joni Mitchell was a huge star and tal­ent!!!!

  • Rich says:

    Joni Mitchell voice and some­what inno­v­a­tive gui­tar work are inspir­ing.

    Dylan style and word­smith work are still inter­est­ing.

  • Michael says:

    Joni Mitchell has every right to have her opin­ion of Dylan and his works. She’s an artist, via lyrics, paint­ing, piano, com­pos­ing opera, cre­at­ing her own “inno­vat­ed” gui­tar chords, her poet­ry and than there’s her voice. Yes, and than there is Bob Dylan.

  • Brian Louks says:

    Name one oth­er edi­tion? She is as unique and gift­ed as they come. She evolved as no oth­er musi­cian has. “lit­tle place?’ So igno­rant.

  • John Malcolm Cuthbertson says:

    Genius is an overused label that serves no pur­pose. The tal­ent and force of cre­ative inspi­ra­tion that Dylan and Joni Mitchell has blessed us all with can’t ade­quate­ly be described. But I know that I am extreme­ly for­tu­nate to have seen them both live. I believe that Ms. Mitchell has some good rea­sons for her opin­ions about Bob. Her music , her art and her songs have enriched us all with grace, and pow­er. May she con­tin­ue in full­ness.

  • Doug Kirsch says:

    I total­ly agree with you, Steve Joni is one of the great song­writ­ers in the last 50 years. But, (just like Woody Allen), she has a prob­lem with being a human­ist. As do many great artists. Love your music, Joni; always have. Your opin­ions are just that. (too bad gor­don was­n’t in the video)

  • Robert Napora says:

    moon at the win­dow, lyric rewrit­ten a lit­tle. Orig­i­nal ver­sion, of the actu­al com­po­si­tion from on piano, I think it’s the bet­ter jazz lyric and I’ve been singing it in my set, of music and orig­i­nal lyrics by

  • Robert Napora says:

    The orig­i­nal lyric,and/of rewrit­ten a lit­tle, I think its the bet­ter jazz lyric. If I may sub­mit this before Mon­day

  • Robert Napora says:

    All it takes is cheer­ful heart and cheer­ful humil­i­ty that’s all it takes a cheer­ful per­son told me Nobody’s hard­er on me than me, and nobody’s as hard on you as you, yet some­times how could they be? ‘Bet­sy’s Blue tel me some­thin good, ‘You know I’d help her out if I only could Oh, but some­times the Light,

  • Robert Napora says:

    Hope to con­tin­ue. this rewrit­ten lit­tle lyric to you? and on piano, with an alto sax, and drums, on cym­bal, back to the refrain of all it takes cheer­ful heart and Humil­i­ty. There’s a jazz place in Port­land

  • Robert Napora says:

    I don’t know, how it could be done, but of all of Geor­gia O’Keefe’s paint­ings tak­en down for a month, of you hang your paint­ings, but with the paint­ing of from the cov­er of Wild Things Run fast, at the por­tal, entrance. What muse­um, of chalk­mark in a rain­storm, the Geor­gia O’Keefe Muse­um in San­ta Fe, and here are the van Gogh por­traits -

  • Robert Napora says:

    I don’t know, how it could be done, but of all of Geor­gia O’Keefe’s paint­ings tak­en down for a month, of with the paint­ing of from the cov­er of Wild Things Run fast, at the por­tal, Entrance. It’d be in Art News and every­thing, and this orig­i­nal dream from years in years ago and Live from the Lensic The­atre, on PBS, while your paint­ings are being shown, a live con­cert at the Lensic The­atre in San­ta Fe, New Mex­i­co and Broad­cast on PBS ?

  • Robert Napora says:

    Chalk Mark in a Rain­storm, played from there. of a bird that whis­tles,

  • Robert Napora says:

    Chalk Mark in a Rain­storm, played from there. of a bird that whis­tles, and the pho­to cov­er of that album, San­ta Fe, New Mex­i­co

  • Robert Napora says:

    Of some­times the light, of moon at the win­dow, Bet­sy’s Blue

  • Robert Napora says:

    Of artis­ti­cal­ly esteemed, Ms Mitchell

  • robertnapora says:

    I hope to rewrite those ear­li­er screens — those “com­ments” so they REAd bet­ter

  • robertnapora says:

    I hope to rewrite those ear­li­er screens — those “com­ments” so they REAd bet­ter. Leave a reply

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