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Joni Mitchell: Singer, Songwriter, Artist, Smoking Grandma   Print

by Ayun Halliday
Open Culture
December 18, 2012

Fans are always eager to find out what drives their favorite artist to create. Hidden torment? Secret passion? The publicity-shy singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell has dropped more than a few lyrical cues over the last half century. Things became infinitely more overt during the informal portion of a 2008 interview with Charlie Rose.

Want to know what spurs Joni? Cigarettes!

She's been hustling to finance her habit since she took them up at nine. What, you think she actively wanted to be a singer-songwriter? No man, playing folk songs in the Canadian coffeehouse scene for fifteen bucks a night meant financial health, and financial health meant she could smoke forever! Modern audiences might expect such a sentiment from the raucous and now-dead Janis Joplin, but isn't Joni more of a demure Ladies of the Canyon type?

Bob Dylan would likely say no.

These days Joni is taking the straightforward approach, no more peeking out from behind carefully-rendered poetic veils. Frankly, Grandma Mitchell seems unlikely to give a damn if her unqualified romance with tobacco shocks. (It seems likely to, though perhaps not so much as some of her other candidly expressed views.)


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