For the past few years, Joni Mitchell could not speak or walk due to a brain aneurysm that impaired her motor skills.
Joni Mitchell, 78, leaned towards Brandi Carlile’s gold microphone and sang along to “Big Yellow Taxi” on Friday night with her blue eyes gleaming. Surrounded by Lauren Daigle, Yola, Jon Batiste, Carlile and numerous other musicians who had feted the celebrated Canadian singer as the MusiCares Person of the Year, Mitchell basked in the music with her ubiquitous physical therapist – who also participated in the chorus – by her side.
Mitchell’s involvement on her 1970 song that blended politics and ecology into some great and frisky guitar strums, was a joyful moment inside the Marquee Ballroom witnessed by an audience that had decreased as the event lasted more than 3 hours.
However, those who stayed in the event were rewarded with this bit of musical brilliance, as well as hearing Mitchell engage in a few lines of “The Circle Game.”
The Recording Academy’s MusiCares foundation offers health and human service assistance to the music industry. Videos from artists aided by MusiCares – including those who benefitted from the $37 million given in COVID-19 assistance – played throughout the night, highlighting the value of its outreach.
Carlile told USA TODAY on the red carpet prior to the program that Mitchell was her “number one priority.” Carlile also sung to her hero at the Kennedy Center Honors in December.
“What would make her proud? What would make her laugh? I wanted to help her realize how relevant she is to multiple generations. Everyone wants to sing in front of Joni and no one wants to sing in front of Joni,” Carlile said with a knowing smile.
Mitchell told USA TODAY before the ceremony that her time as a MusiCares commendation honoree and Kennedy Center Honors has been a remarkable few months.
“It’s interesting that it’s been happening – and that it took 50 years to get there,” Mitchell said.
What, therefore, is the source of her newfound enthusiasm for her career?“Maybe people are getting deeper.”