Joni Mitchell reflects on her life and legacy

In an exclusive interview with CBC, singer, songwriter and artist Joni Mitchell reflects on her creative life and legacy.

Exclusive CBC interview in advance of her appearance in Toronto

Joni Mitchell

The National

8 years ago
Jian Ghomeshi sits down for a wide-ranging interview with Canadian music icon Joni Mitchell. The conversation happened in advance of her appearance at Toronto's Luminato Festival (June 18-19). 16:15

In an exclusive interview with CBC, singer, songwriter and artist Joni Mitchell reflects on her creative life and legacy.

The native of Saskatchewan who defined the folk era with songs like Big Yellow Taxi and Woodstock, is now living in retirement in Los Angeles.

  • A full 90-minute special aired on CBC Radio One’s Q on June 11 at 10 a.m. and will air again at 10 p.m. (10:30 NT) and on CBC Radio 2’s Drive at 6 p.m. (6:30 NT).
  • The complete video of the interview is available on  CBCMusic.ca will also air as a feature interview on CBC-TV on Q with Jian Ghomeshi on Sunday, June 16 at 1 p.m. (1:30 NT).
  • Highlights from Jian Ghomeshi’s interview appeared on The National on CBC-TV.
  • Joni Mitchell will be in Toronto to recite poetry at her Luminato festival tribute concert, Joni: A Portrait in Song.

Famous for avoiding the press, she agreed to an interview with Jian Ghomeshi host of CBC’s Q cultural affairs show ahead of her appearance at the Luminato Festival in Toronto next week. Mitchell will be honoured at Luminato with a tribute show, Joni: A Portrait in Song at Massey Hall on June 18 and 19.

The tribute, with an all-star lineup of musicians and vocalists interpreting her songs, takes place just ahead of her 70th birthday, which is Nov. 7. She will recite a new poem with musical accompaniment by her long-time drummer and collaborator, singer-songwriter Brian Blade, and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire as part of the tribute program.

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Her music, which progressed from folk and pop through jazz and experimental styles, is her legacy. Long considered a master songwriter, Mitchell is heralded for albums such as Hejira and Blue, which Rolling Stone ranked No. 30 on its list of 500 greatest albums.

"The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it," she said in her CBC interview.

"If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about  yourself and now you’re getting something out of it, you know."

Ghomeshi interviewed Mitchell for close to three hours in her home, which is filled with her art — Mitchell has spent her time painting since she gave up touring. He asked how she felt about being venerated at an event like Luminato.

"Depends on the venerator. You know, I mean, in a certain way, honour died in World War II. You know, it just kinda died. Not very many people know how to do it anymore. If they honour you wrong, it makes you arrogant, because it stung. If they honour you right, it's humbling because it's inspiring."