“Joni: The Anthology” edited by Barney Hoskyns— Joni Mitchell’s Career As it Happened

Hoskyns, Barney. “Joni: The Anthology”, Picador, 2017.

Joni Mitchell’s Career As it Happened

Amos Lassen

Joni Mitchell as won nine Grammy and sold ore than ten million albums. She has been named as one of the greatest singers and songwriters of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. “Joni: The Anthology” is an essential collection of writings on Joni Mitchell that looks at every major moment of her career, as it happened.

We get album reviews, commentary, and candid conversations about “the blonde in the bleachers”. , There is a review of Mitchell’s first-ever show at L.A.’s Troubadour in June of 1968, a 1978 interview by musician Ben Sidran on jazz great Charles Mingus, a personal reminiscence by Ellen Sander, a confidant of the Los Angeles singer-songwriter community, and a long version of editor Barney Hoskyns’ 1994 “MOJO” interview. All in all, this is time capsule of an icon, the anthology spans the entirety of Joni’s career between 1967-2007, as well as thoughtful commentary on her early years and a book that every Joni Mitchell fan will want to have.

While this is basically about Joni Mitchell, we see her career follows the evolution of modern rock journalism and as we go through her highs and lows, we also see the highs and lows of popular music.

Joni shares in one of her interviews in 1994 that once she crossed the border, she began to write and her voice changed. She was no longer imitative of the folk and her real voice and with a slight folk influence but from the first album her music was no longer folk music. She became just a girl with a guitar “that made it look that way”.

The book is composed of nearly 50 years of critical efforts to solve Mitchell’s mysteries and what we see is “a possessive impulse, a desire to really know an artist whose fierce privacy has often seemed at odds with the impression of intimacy conveyed by her music.” What we have is both highly readable, and at times emotionally gripping. I found myself wanting to hear Mitchell’s recordings in the background as I read.

Everyone has a favorite Joni Mitchell song and some of us have special Joni Mitchell moments so I thought I would share mine here. When I lived in Israel, I once went to a small concert by a new female singer back then. Her name was Yehudit Ravitz and her career was just beginning. This had to be in the mid 1980s. Sitting next to me was a blonde with very red lips and I knew that I recognized her but could not remember from where. Much later in the concert Ravitz welcomed Joni Mitchell to Israel. Joni Mitchell was the kindest person I had ever met or so I felt that night. We spoke openly and then we were gone in our separate directions.

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