When news began filtering out of Los Angeles that Mitchell was found unconscious in her home last Tuesday, fans all over the world felt their hearts skip a beat.
Days later, the Grammy Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter is still hospitalized, amid reports she has been resting comfortably, and is continuing to improve and getting stronger by the day. Although the cause of her illness hasn’t been revealed, she is known to suffer from a little known condition known as Morgellons. Because of this, the beloved Mitchell says she can no longer sing or perform.
But next month, the 71-year-old singer is scheduled to make a rare public appearance in San Francisco, to receive the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award. The all-star tribute will feature a gala concert with a number of very special guests, including Patti Austin, Tom Scott and Kris Kristofferson, along with the SFJAZZ Collective, who will perform many of Ms. Mitchell’s most beloved songs. Coinciding with her scheduled appearance in San Francisco, the world-renowned San Francisco Art Exchange will present an exhibition of original Joni Mitchell photographs taken by her former live in partner, singer Graham Nash throughout May.
While the music world anxiously awaits her full recovery and subsequent release from a Los Angeles hospital, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the music from a remarkably gifted woman who has won eight Grammy Awards and released more than 25 albums including one that was named the number two ranked album on Rolling Stone’s “Women Who Rock: The 50 Greatest Female Albums of All Time”. She was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997.
Chelsea Morning (Clouds 1969)
From the album that earned Mitchell her first Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance, “Chelsea Morning” is a reflection upon her time living in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City. Although the song wasn’t a major hit, peaking at No. 78 on the Billboard Hot 100, it was recorded by others such as Judy Collins and heralded Mitchell as an emerging singer and songwriter.
Both Sides Now (Clouds 1969)
The final song from Mitchell’s second album proved to be Judy Collins’ most famous recording, earning the latter a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance in 1968. The song has since been covered from several iconic music artists, from Bing Crosby, Robert Goulet and Frank Sinatra to Dion, Neil Diamond and Pete Seeger. Collin’s version is currently ranked No. 171 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Big Yellow Taxi (Ladies of the Canyon 1970)
Surprisingly, this 1970 song didn’t fare that well in America, only making it up to No. 67. But “Big Yellow Taxi” scored in other countries, reaching No. 6 in Australia, No. 11 in the UK and No. 14 in Canada. In a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mitchell said her lyrics were based upon her first visit to Hawaii, describing how “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”.
Woodstock (Ladies of the Canyon 1970)
From the same 1970 album, this legendry song was written about one of the most famous music concerts in history. Shortly after Mitchell released her version, “Woodstock” became a huge hit from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, reaching No. 11 on the Billboard charts and one of the most memorable songs from the counterculture movement during the Viet Nam War era.
California (Blue 1971)
The second single released from one of Mitchell’s most celebrated albums, “California” spoke of her time living in Paris yet proclaiming she was “coming home” to the West Coast. Her fourth album was widely acclaimed as one of the best albums in music history by a female artist.
Help Me (Court and Spark 1974)
Recorded with jazz musician Tom Scott’s L.A. Express, “Help Me” was Mitchell’s best selling single, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the easy listening charts. Currently ranked No. 288 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest of All Time, the song has been covered by more than 60 artists, such as Wynonna Judd and k.d. Lang. According to Song Lyrics, “Help Me” was inspired by Mitchell’s relationship with Glen Frey of the Eagles.
Free Man in Paris (Court and Spark 1974)
Written about David Geffen founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of Dreamworks SKG , this uplifting song was arguably Mitchell’s last major hit. Although “Free Man in Paris” made it up to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, it managed to reach No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart. According to Robbie Robertson, former member of The Band, the lyrics were based upon a real life occasion where Geffen had to vouch for his reputation when dining in Paris with Mitchell, Robertson and his wife and the restaurant wouldn’t accept credit cards.