Staring at the fire For hours and hours while I listen to you Play your love songs all night long for me Only for me —”Our House” by Graham Nash, recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash & YoungCanadian painter, poet, composer, musician, singer-songwriter, guitarist, alternate-tuning queen, alto, and overall doyenne Joni Mitchell turns 78 on November 7th. Join as we celebrate Mitchell with five longreads about a brilliant artist whose career has spanned 60 years.
introduced” Joni Mitchell in 1969, the magazine derided her as a composer, singer, and musician, saying that she was “Not bad for a girl who had no voice training, hated to read in school, and learned guitar from a Pete Seeger instruction record.” They go on — dismissing her songs as “contrived” — to suggest that listeners are smitten despite their better judgment. “She can charm the applause out of audience [sic],” the editors wrote, “by breaking a guitar string, then apologizing by singing her next number a capella, wounded guitar at a limp parade rest. And when she talks, words stumble out of her mouth to form candid little quasi – anecdotes that are completely antithetical to her carefully constructed, contrived songs. But they knock the audience out almost every time.” If Rolling Stone didn’t get it at first, her musical contemporaries did. David Crosby (The Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) knew immediately that Mitchell was something special. In the two-part 2020 documentary Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time, Crosby recounts inviting Eric Clapton over for the afternoon. Clapton sat, mesmerized by Mitchell’s playing and her altered guitar tunings. (Some of that mesmerization was probably due to all the weed, but let’s not allow that to take away from Mitchell and her guitar skills.) Crosby and Clapton weren’t the only ones who saw the genius in Joni. To hear him talk about his then lady-love in Laurel Canyon, you get the strong impression that Graham Nash (The Hollies, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young) still isn’t over her, 40 years later. “I was in love from the moment that I ever spent any time with her,” says Nash, who wrote the song “Our House” about his relationship with Mitchell. Do you ever really get over the woman who took up with James Taylor after she wrote most of her highly acclaimed album, Blue, in your communal living room?