February 5, 2024

"They shake their heads and say Joni, you've changed."


Last night at the Grammys. I've never cared at all about the Grammys, but this was Joni Mitchell performing last night.

Was the choice of "Both Sides Now" intended to provide insight into the passage of time — Joni is 80 — or was it playing the odds and maximizing the chance that the audience would recognize the tune?

44 comments:

NKP said...

I worship Joni's talents but the get-up she's wearing in that photo suggests she might be a soul mate of King Charles. Better keep an eye on that boy, Camilla. Both sides now, indeed!

William said...

Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang. It's a different song when an old woman sings it. There were a lot of her songs that she could have sung to great effect with that frail, old voice. "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone," performed for an Emmy audience of painted ponies that go up and down.

rehajm said...

The audience for the Grammys show is close to 80 so whatever they’d most likely recognize…

rehajm said...

What was Joni’s catch phrase to signal she’s part of the hip and happening political crowd?

hawkeyedjb said...

Nobody will surpass the Judy Collins version of "Both Sides Now."

Iman said...

Oh dear…

Temujin said...

I did not know the Grammy's were on last night because I haven't watched network TV- outside of the news- for years. I missed Annie Lennox apparently, who I liked. But would have been nauseated by her preening to the cause of Hamas without a mention of the kidnapped Israelis- still being held, raped, and abused.

Love Joni Mitchell to this day, but I'm sure I saw her do that very song in that very chair on some other special a couple of years ago. Still...she's 80 now. I'm 70 and I know that this next 10 years is really my last good 10 years- if I get it. Something seems to happen at 80. I guess it's called- age. I'm at the point where I feel gratitude for so much of what I've seen, and people I've know, music I've heard, books I've read, movies or TV shows I loved. But mostly- music.

It's amazing that a song can bring you back to a place in time- a place in your life. That moment is always there, it always exists. You hear that song and you're transported to a place, a time. I didn't see the show last night, but watching the video, I'm again whisked back to the fall of 1973. I'm in an Oldsmobile Cutlass. It's a convertible, but my best buddy and I have the top up because we're in the car with all of our belongings. We've left school at Michigan State. We're driving out west to see where our life takes us. We're somewhere in Colorado, and Joni Mitchell is playing on the 8 track shoved into the car dashboard. I remember Aspens on both sides of the highway as we were driving through mountains. The album is "Clouds". The song is "Both Sides Now". I'm thinking I've got my whole life ahead of me.

And I did. Whenever I hear that song, I'm back in that Cutlass with the world in front of me.
We ended up back in East Lansing, back in school...after many months of getting nowhere in San Rafael, north of San Francisco. For years afterward, whenever my business or pleasure brought me into Marin County, driving up Highway 101, I'd pass the hill outside of San Rafael where our rented house stood. I can still see the house from the highway. I see my buddy and I sitting on the roof, smoking a joint overlooking the Richmond Bridge. I'm still up there. Joni is still playing on the looping 8 track player we brought with us.

Michael said...

Lose the braids, Joni, and fifty pounds. Great artist though

tim in vermont said...

Did she ever concede that Joe Rogan was right all along, and put her music back on Spotify?

JKLOL.

Strick said...

...I've looked at life from both sides now...

Simple enough.

Howard said...

Every time I see Joni Mitchell, I think it's either a Lucky strikes commercial or maybe an ad for COPD oxygen tanks.

Kate said...

I'm not a Joni fan, but the staging for this was fun. A rotating wingback and a beautiful accompaniment make for great theater.

I think she chose this piece because it's one of the few from her catalogue that she can still somewhat sing, even transposed way down for the octave jump.

Wince said...

Downer averted. She revealed a smile at the end, which was nice.

Aggie said...

If Joni feels like performing, I feel like I could cut her a little slack, at 80, and be a respectful audience. I've enjoyed her music and her art. As for the fist-pumping protest movement, they can all go f*ck themselves. I lose most of my respect for the Talent when they decide to pontificate on politics.

gilbar said...

isn't she dead yet? HOW can we miss her? If she Won't Go Away?

rcocean said...

Nice she's still performing. Does she still hate Joe Rogan? Are her songs on Spotify? Did she give up on trying to censor people she doesn't like?

Birches said...

A duo I'm very fond of gave a concert in Rylan auditorium in Nashville last week and said they'd never lost a Grammy to Joni Mitchell before. And they were right.

JES said...

I couldn't watch it all. I would rather remember the song and the Joni I used to know from my youth.

RBE said...

I had no expectation for the Grammys but was pleasantly surprised that it was a decent show. I watched it this morning while having my morning coffee. I was surprised that I didn't fast forward through more of it. The tributes to Tony Bennett, Tina Turner and Sinead O'Conner were well done. I saw Joni Mitchell perform on a tribute show a few months ago, so I wasn't surprised by her frail but determined performance. Most of the current nominated artists that performed were nothing special with the exception of Miley. Would have loved to seen Taylor and Lana Del Ray sing.

Leeatmg said...

"rehajm said...
The audience for the Grammys show is close to 80 so whatever they’d most likely recognize…"

You must not have teenagers. My daughters and all of their friends watched. Planned. Predicted. Rather nice to see sixteen year old girls look up from their phones, hear Joni singing, and say "hey - I know that song!" Maybe there's hope for music after all.

Marcus Bressler said...

I saw her do this same song just a little while back -- maybe a year or do -- online. For sentimental reasons, it was okay. But she's like Paul Simon -- get that old and lose your ability to sing halfway decent and we don't need to watch you perform. Maybe at the nursing home, but not at the Grammys -- which I did not watch and never will. I didn't like Mitchell but acknowledge her talent as a songwriter.

Oligonicella said...

hawkeyedjb - Agree 100%. And thanks, have bookmarked that song now.

gilbar - Agree with you and Dan Hicks.

Never really cared for her. When your performing voice fails, stop performing. Same thing happened with Three Dog Night. Most pathetic thing I've heard was TDN in their farewell tour. Their voices cracked, as they could no longer hit the notes they were renown for. At least Joni had the brains to shift the register and slow it down. Still a poor performance.

PM said...

Frankly, they could've played some Joni tunes against visuals of her early concert and Laurel Canyon footage - then opened the curtain to reveal her sweet eightiness for the love. Instead, her live rendition, while brave, had the hip-hop crowd wondering WTF is up with this? The Grammies, as if. They miss the gramophone business.

Rich said...

Seems important to mention that Joni Mitchell suffered a debilitating brain aneurysm in 2015. Which left her unable to speak or walk, much less play the guitar.

Joe Smith said...

She shouldn't be singing even for nostalgia's sake.

Anyone in the audience would have done better, even non-singers.

Besides, I think of this as a Judy Collins song even though Joni wrote it...

Rusty said...

Cringe worthy. Let the next generation take your music and make it theirs.
Disturbed owns "Sounds of Silence". "Toms Diner" by the Giant Rooks.

MalaiseLongue said...

As soon as I heard (from another room, where my spouse was watching) that Joni Mitchell was singing, I went to the "Trending" section of Twitter, expecting to find comments and threads about her flat, off-key talk-singing.

But no. It was all Joni-worship.

Hollywood is nothing if not sentimental, and if they have to slather a croaking 80-year-old woman in treacle, they do.

In fairness, I have always hated "Both Sides Now," even when sung by Judy Collins.

Also in fairness, I don't hold Joni's censorious demands regarding Joe Rogan against her. She was blindly following the odious Neil Young (whose music I enjoy), for no better reason than that they are both survivors of childhood polio--if Joni's censorious demands were hers at all and not (as I suspect) those of some aide or PR flack.

John henry said...

Dave Von Ronk did it much better back in 67.

With the Hudson Dusters

John Henry

Will Cate said...

Neither. "Both Sides Now" was her first paycheck-hit (top 10, 1968, by Judy Collins), the kind of song that endures forever. It was a tribute to that... its place in music history.

Heartless Aztec said...

I still have "Morning Morgan Town" in my guitar "play around the campfire" songbook.

Josephbleau said...

“Nobody will surpass the Judy Collins version of "Both Sides Now."

I much prefer Willie Nelson’s cover, smooth with a bit of gravel. Like fine whiskey.

Joe Biden Is Corrupt said...

she sounds really quite good.

Kai Akker said...

Taylor Swift wins 4th album grammy, most ever? I tried listening to it, Midnights. Tried two songs, absolutely nuthin. One was Snow on the Beach, in which she sings "fuckin" in the chorus, and the other one wasn't. These were not what I think of as Taylor Swift songs. I don't know for sure what they were trying to be, but they both left me cold. No life to either one.

Joe Smith said...

'Seems important to mention that Joni Mitchell suffered a debilitating brain aneurysm in 2015. Which left her unable to speak or walk, much less play the guitar.'

Hope she recovers fully.

All the more reason not to sing.

Christopher said...

Lord there's a lot of heartless s.o.b.'s in this thread lol.

I don't watch the Grammys and other than the triumphant Fast Car duo didn't see any other clips until just now watching Joni. When she was singing last night, several of my contemporaries on Facebook said they were shedding tears of gratitude. If you never liked her fine, if you don't weigh the gravitas of a moment like that, I guess it's your business. But this was deeply moving to fans like me, both of her, and of her time. And though she never would have launched a career singing like this, there were some beautiful poignant moments when she landed particularly expressive notes, the kind of thing you can only do in Joni's position with one foot in the grave. I'm so glad she did this.

There are ways to sing techincally well, and there are other ways to sing with emotion. They don't have to be the same thing, just ask Tom Waits.

Tina Trent said...

Um, again, justifying stuffing explosives in the bodies of girls and women who have been raped to death isn't .... touching.

Grow the fuck up, boomers. There's evil in the world. And all those black R&B singers you danced to hated you too.

JAORE said...

I agree with several above. It was sad to see the struggle to sing.

Johnny Cash had a last album that friends told me was a poignant telling of a long life well lived.

Sorry. I found it a pathetic croaking of someone unable to leave the stage.

Let her take her bow. But don't let her sing.

Richard Dolan said...

It's hard listening to a beloved singer whose voice has long since abandoned her, and I couldn't get through this performance. Nostalgia has its place but that place is rarely on center stage. As it happens, Bruce Springsteen is in the same spot.

It made me think back to a performance by Evelyn Lear, at the end of her career at the Met, singing the Marschallin, a role she had handled exquisitely many times before. As she aged, her voice darkened and the high notes were not quite what they had been. It's a role that, from a purely dramatic perspective, is tailor-made for a great by fading voice. The fading part was readily apparent when compared to Kiri TeKanawa's version of the Marschallin -- Lear and TeKanawa were alternating in the role that season.

Joni Mitchell had a wonderful clear tone back in the day. It would have been better just to leave everyone with that memory.

gspencer said...

"You can take that song and shove it" was a Johnny Paycheck hit directed at Joni.

Mason G said...

I don't know...

I attended a performance by Gordon Lightfoot a year or so before he passed away. His voice was nothing like it was fifty years ago. I wasn't expecting it to be and (for me, anyway) that was okay.

Rich said...

"Lord there's a lot of heartless s.o.b.'s in this thread lol."

This phenomona appears to be a feature and not a bug on this blog.....

Rusty said...

Nobody forced her onstage, Rich.

Rusty said...

Nobody forced her onstage, Rich.
You put your sh*t out in public it's fair game for the public, A lesson you should take to heart and do better research.

gspencer said...

Lessons in learning to let the memories remain where they are. At 05:31 - and everyone will believe those are your real teeth. Maybe she should have worn go-go boots as well.