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28 July 2021

Joni Mitchell Releases Live Performance Recorded By Jimi Hendrix

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© Joel Bernstein 1970
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Joni Mitchell has released a previously unheard live recording of her song The Dawntreader from a set recorded by Jimi Hendrix on 19 March 1968 in Ottawa, Canada. The track is to feature on Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971), the forthcoming 5CD/10LP rarities set available here.

Back then a 24-year-old Joni Mitchell was in the midst of a two-week residency at Le Hibou Coffee House playing to rave reviews in anticipation of her debut album, Song To A Seagull, which was set for release just a few days later on Reprise. Not long before Mitchell was scheduled to take the stage, Jimi Hendrix was just finishing his second sold-out show of the night at the Capitol Theater a few blocks away. Earlier in the day, Hendrix had spoken to Mitchell and noted his plans to record her in his diary entry for that day:

“talked with Joni Mitchell on the phone. I think I’ll record her tonight with my excellent tape recorder (knock on wood)… hmmm… can’t find any wood… verything’s plastic”

Following his two performances on that night, Hendrix rolled in to Le Hibou with his reel-to-reel recorder as promised and kneeled in front of the stage, unnoticed by most, and recorded Mitchell’s two sets that evening. As he also noted in his diary, Hendrix, like many others at the time, was mesmerized by Mitchell: “fantastic girl with heaven words.”

Hendrix’s tape from that night was stolen a few days later, with the recording thought to be lost forever. The recording was recently discovered in a private collection that was donated to the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and returned to Mitchell.

Mitchell reflects back on that night in her conversation with Cameron Crowe from the Archives Vol 2 liner notes: “They came and told me, ‘Jimi Hendrix is here, and he’s at the front door.’ I went to meet him. He had a large box. He said to me, ‘My name is Jimi Hendrix. I’m on the same label as you. Reprise Records.’ We were both signed about the same time. He said, ‘I’d like to record your show. Do you mind?’ I said, ‘no, not at all.’ There was a large reel-to-reel tape recorder in the box.”

“The stage was only about a foot off the ground. He knelt at edge of the stage, with a microphone, at my feet. All during the show, he kept twisting knobs. He was engineering it, I don’t know what he was controlling, volume? He was watching the needles or something, messing with knobs. He beautifully recorded this tape. Of course I played part of the show to him. He was right below me.”

Joni Mitchell Archives Vol 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971) will be released as a 5CD set as well as digitally. The music will also be available exclusively at as a 10LP set on 180-gram vinyl, limited to 4,000 copies. All orders on the official Joni Mitchell store come with an exclusive 7”x7” art print featuring a never-before-seen illustration by Mitchell from the era.

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