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.
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
I’ve always liked the way she does that one
This entire lp is extraordinary. Jaco’s bass…what can i say….to be a fly on the wall….
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. 💖
The old fart was hiding in smelly robes to deceive naive girls.
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.
How old are you?
Joni Mitchell was a huge star and talent!!!!
Joni Mitchell voice and somewhat innovative guitar work are inspiring.
Dylan style and wordsmith work are still interesting.
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.
Name one other edition? She is as unique and gifted as they come. She evolved as no other musician has. “little place?’ So ignorant.
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.
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)
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
The original lyric,and/of rewritten a little, I think its the better jazz lyric. If I may submit this before Monday
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,
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
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 –
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 ?
Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm, played from there. of a bird that whistles,
Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm, played from there. of a bird that whistles, and the photo cover of that album, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Of sometimes the light, of moon at the window, Betsy’s Blue
Of artistically esteemed, Ms Mitchell
I hope to rewrite those earlier screens – those “comments” so they REAd better
I hope to rewrite those earlier screens – those “comments” so they REAd better. Leave a reply