photo by WILLIAM CLAXTON
"People forget there's a divine element in music. I'm sick of gangster chic, the whining shrewishness of female artists, the punk irresponsibility of white male rockers. It's just ick. There's no greatness left in it."
In 1969, when Joni Mitchell began to emerge as an icon of the times, American was in the throes of a musical generation gap. Young people were in love with rock and folk music, which many parents dismissed as "crass, amateurish and grotesque." Now it is Mitchell, 56, who uses these words to describe today's pop. "The great music of the 20th century is certainly from the early and middle years," she says.
Anyone who wants to argue the point should first listen to her new CD, Both Sides Now, which consists almost entirely of classic love songs, sung to the accompaniment of a 70-piece orchestra. "It's a synopsis of romantic love," Mitchell says. Half of the CD's 12 songs (including 'Comes Love' and 'You're My Thrill') were previously recorded by Ella Fitzerald. To invite conparison to Ella takes chutzpah. But Mitchell's got that and though she's not Ella, her smoky voice is completely worthy of the timelss music she so admires.
Mitchell now dismisses the pop scene altogether. "I'm too good for that arena, frankly," she says, "too original." Still very much a child of the 60's, she rails against capitalism ("we rape and plunder nature for money") and uses tai chi and mystical healing to fight a long-standing illness. (Doctors suspect postpolio syndrome.) "I beat polio at nine, mystically." she says. "I was paralyzed but there was a Christmas tree in my room, and I said to it: 'I am not a cripple.' "And I got up and danced." She has been dancing ever since, to the beat of her own drum.