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Joni Mitchell surprised everyone at the July 2022 Newport Folk Festival when she showed up to the Joni Jam organized by Brandi Carlile & Friends

July 29, 2022

Brandi Carlile & Friends were scheduled to perform a Joni Jam at the Newport Folk Festival Sunday, July 24, 2022. Brandi surprised everyone when she announced that Joni Mitchell was joining them on stage. She first appeared at that festival in 1967, and again in 1969, 53 years ago!

This would be Joni’s first public performance after a long recovery period from a brain aneurysm in 2015 that nearly took her life. She had to relearn many basic things, as well as how to sing and play her guitar again, which she picked up by watching herself on YouTube videos.

CBS Mornings correspondent Anthony Mason spent the weekend there. Brandi told him about the Joni Jam, where musician friends would gather together over the years to sing songs in Joni’s California living room. She’d sip her wine and listen, until one day, she started to sing and play. It was Brandi’s idea to bring the Joni Jam to Newport.

Anthony asked Joni if she was nervous about singing in front of an audience again. Joni replied that she’s never been nervous in front of audiences. “But I want it to be good. And I wasn’t sure I could be. But I didn’t sound too bad tonight!” They all share a laugh. See Anthony’s wonderful report (8:28).

Update: The Extended Interview

CBS Mornings later posted the extended interview (5:32) with this description. Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlile spoke with Anthony Mason after rehearsing for their surprise “Joni Jam” set at the Newport Folk Festival. Mitchell returned to the festival stage after 53 years, performing for the first time in public since a brain aneurysm in 2015.

Both Sides Now

I love this song! I first heard Joni sing Both Sides Now live in Montreal at a Place Des Arts concert in 1969. She stood on stage, a young innocent woman in a floor-length green dress and just her guitar, mesmerizing us all with her amazing talent.

Decades later, in An All-Star Tribute to Joni Mitchell, 2000, she performed a slower more melancholic version of her song with a full orchestra. Wearing a floor-length blue dress, she humbly sang from a different perspective, having looked at, reflected upon, her experiences of love and life from both sides, win and lose, illusions like clouds, which she sang, “I really don’t know (clouds, love) life at all.”

But this Newport Folk Festival performance was different. Joni was showing her audience, the musicians, and herself, that she can still sing, from both sides now—from before and after her aneurysm.

Her deep baritone-sounding voice is richly colored like dark mahogany. Brandi, hand over her heart, holds back from crying out loud. As the song comes to an end, we see and hear Joni’s happiness spilling over in laughter. She can still deliver. Everyone’s wildly cheering and applauding. Smiles everywhere; not a dry eye in the place. What an emotional return!

Summertime

“Summertime” is one of the most recorded songs in history. More than 2500 by now. Joni delivers the best jazz version of this Gershwin classic that I’ve ever heard! Not only does she still have it, she’s also matured like a rare vintage wine. A big thanks to Amy Karibian for posting the 14-song set.

Recent Awards, Honors, Tributes

Last year, the 44th Annual Kennedy Center Honors acknowledged 5 outstanding artists. They started the evening with a special Joni Mitchell Tribute featuring famous musicians and friends. In 2002, she was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. This year, Joni appeared in person to receive her 10th Grammy, for Best Historical Album for her collection, Archives, Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963–1967). The night before, Joni Mitchell was recognized as the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year. The MusiCares 2022 Person Of The Year Tribute featured old friends and new faces, touching testimonials, and some of the greatest songs ever written. It did the songwriting pioneer proud.

Where will she go from here?

Where will Joni Mitchell go from here? She will probably continue to sing and play music. Maybe write new songs? Anything is possible. This ongoing recovery is turning out to be a gift for Joni, and her fans.

She told Anthony Mason what her surgeon had said about her recovery, that she has will and grit. It helped her overcome polio as a child, and now this brain aneurysm. Miracles are continuing to happen for Joni. She’s not done yet. Visit JoniMitchell.com and her socials for updates.

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