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Stars Shine in Tribute to Joni Mitchell   Print

by Larry Rodgers
Arizona Republic
April 16, 2000

Lovers of intriguing and daring popular music are lucky that seminal singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell didn't devote her immense creative talent solely to her first love.

Painting--not the rich mix of folk, pop, and jazz that Mitchell has crafted since 1965--has always been closest to her heart, viewers are told in a wonderful tribute to her that airs today on the TNT network.

"In her mind, she has always been a painter first," says Tony Bennett, part of the impressive lineup that interprets Mitchell's influential work in the broadcast.

A series of self portraits has graced some of her album covers, honestly revealing the physical changes in a woman who has relished change in her music.

An All-Star Tribute to Joni Mitchell manages to scratch the surface of the singer's 21-album output, which has inspired countless artists, including performers Shawn Colvin, James Taylor, Wynonna, Elton John, k. d. lang and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

"I don't know where I would have been without you," Colvin tells Mitchell before she and Chapin Carpenter beautifully harmonize on Amelia.

"I've loved you, Joni, since I was 10, and I can't believe this is happening," Wynonna gushes as her idol watches in New York's Hammerstein Ballroom.

Wynonna, whose sister, Ashley Judd, does a radiant job as host, lends a twang to "You Turn Me on I'm a Radio" and joins Bryan Adams for Raised on Robbery.

Part of the fun is watching how various performers choose to interpret Mitchell's songs.

Cyndi Lauper serves a hypnotizing take on Carey, the tale of globe-trotting musical vagabonds. British folk-rocker Richard Thompson chants his way through Woodstock as Mitchell closes her eyes and sways in her seat.

Jazz pianist Diana Krall threatens to steal the show with A Case of You, and lang gently caresses Help Me. Actor Laurence Fishburn reminds viewers of the songwriters forays into jazz. Mitchell was asked by jazz legend Charles Mingus to set lyrics to the last melodies he wrote before his death, resulting in 1979's Mingus.

Mitchell's jazzy Dry Cleaner From Des Moines is put through its paces by Cassandra Wilson.

The 56-year-old honoree appears on stage at the show's end, backed by an orchestra to sing Both Sides Now.

Still a stunning presence with her high cheekbones and curious eyes, Mitchell exudes an aura of bittersweet joy that reflects the complexities of her music.

 

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