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PBS airs Gershwin Prize for Joni Mitchell on March 31 Print-ready version

by Jason Fraley
WTOP
March 28, 2023

On March 1, legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell received the Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in a star-studded concert filmed at DAR Constitution Hall in the nation's capital.

Now, viewers at home can finally watch it with the PBS broadcast this Friday, March 31, at 9 p.m.

"It's so exciting because Joni is an icon in music, she has crossed so many genres, of course, folk, pop, jazz, classical," Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden told WTOP. "She really redefined the role of women musicians. She oversaw all aspects of her albums and this was back in the time of the '60s, '70s and '80s when that wasn't happening. She did the arrangements, the production, her own artwork, because she's an amazing artist."

The concert kicks off with Grammy winner Annie Lennox donning a sparkling black jacket to sing "Both Sides Now" from Mitchell's groundbreaking sophomore album "Clouds" (1969). "To hear Annie Lennox sing 'Both Sides Now,' that starts the concert off and you think it can't get any better than this," Hayden said.

Indeed, it just keeps getting better and better as Beninese singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo performs "Help Me" from Mitchell's 1974 album "Court and Spark," followed by James Taylor performing "California" from her 1971 album "Blue," which recently ranked No. 3 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Fans of the "Blue" album will also get to hear Cyndi Lauper performing the title track, Herbie Hancock playing piano to "River," and former flame Graham Nash singing "A Case of You."

Meanwhile, Diana Krall sings "For the Roses," the title song off of Mitchell's 1972 album, while Brandi Carlile sings "Shine" from the eponymous 2007 album, which turned out to be Mitchell's final album.

Ledisi also leads Lauper, Lennox, Carlile and Kidjo in a singalong to Mitchell's environmental anthem "Big Yellow Taxi" off her iconic album "Ladies of the Canyon" (1970). The crowd roars as Carlile hands the mic to Mitchell in the front row to sing the lyric, "Put up a parking lot."

It all builds to Mitchell taking the stage with bipartisan members of Congress standing beside her.

"It's overwhelming," Mitchell says in her acceptance speech. "It's just a beautiful event for me. So many people that I care about are here tonight from different parts of my life, new friends, old friends, it's kind of thrilling."

Mitchell then performs the Gershwin standard "Summertime," followed by a singalong of "The Circle Game" with all of the night's performers. It marks a comeback for Mitchell, who suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015.

"She had polio as a child, so this isn't her first fight," Hayden said. "There were tears, frankly, when she got up on stage and sang one of her favorite Gershwin songs. ... The broadcast is going to really grab at your heartstrings, but also you'll be singing along at home."

The concert airs at 9 p.m. on PBS. The Library of Congress will also be hosting a Twitter viewing party. If you miss it, the show will be available on PBS streaming platforms.

Past recipients include Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Gloria & Emilio Estefan, Garth Brooks and Lionel Richie.

"That's the power of music and the power of someone like Joni Mitchell, who can epitomize what the prize is about: timeliness, relevance over time, she is the perfect one," Hayden said.

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Added to Library on March 30, 2023. (1135)

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