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23 December 2021

Joni Mitchell Celebrated At Kennedy Center Honors Ceremony

Joni Mitchell Kennedy Center
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Joni Mitchell was celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony with artists including Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock, Brittany Howard and Brandi Carlile performing some of her most beloved songs.

Ellie Goulding performed Mitchell’s 1970 hit, Big Yellow Taxi (from Ladies Of The Canyon), while Howard and Herbie Hancock teamed up for a rendition of Both Sides, Now (from 1969’s Clouds).

Norah Jones delivered a medley of Mitchell’s tracks, with the keystone being 1974’s Help Me (from that year’s Court And Spark) and Brandi Carlile performed River, from 1971’s Blue. The ceremony took place on 5 December at the John F Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, with a recording aired on CBS yesterday (22 December).

Among those that delivered speeches honouring Mitchell was US President Joe Biden, who said: “Your words and melodies touch the deepest parts of our souls. [Mitchell has] a capacity to love with abandon, and she does it by letting us in, by sharing what’s deeply personal and yet universal. It’s why millions of people will listen to her songs and feel they were written just for them.

“You’re a master at your craft, and what sets you apart, in my view, is when we listen to you – your voice, your guitar, your careful arrangements – we listen to a great song. And then you read the lyrics on their own, in the quiet, all by themselves, and you read a great poem. You sing poetry, it seems to me, and I’m no artist.

Biden went on to praise Mitchell for “[touching] the range of human nature and the sense of struggle and how we overcome and how we love”, before congratulating her for the prestigious honour.

In her own speech at the event, Joni Mitchell touched on her ongoing health issues. “I always think that polio was a rehearsal for the rest of my life,” she said, referring to the disease she suffered aged nine. “I’ve had to come back several times from things. And this last one was a real whopper. But, you know, I’m hobbling along but I’m doing all right!”

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