Joni Mitchell Joined By All-Stars at Library of Congress Gershwin Prize Concert

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Joni Mitchell accepts the 2023 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden during a tribute concert at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., March 1, 2023. (Photo: Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)

Joni Mitchell was honored on March 1, 2023, at a concert, Joni Mitchell: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Washington, D.C. The all-star lineup included James Taylor, Graham Nash, Annie Lennox, Brandi Carlile, Herbie Hancock, and Mitchell herself. The concert will premiere on March 31 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings); it’s a co-production of WETA Washington, D.C.; Ken Ehrlich Productions, Inc.; and the Library of Congress.

At the concert, Mitchell performed the Gershwin song, “Summertime.” Annie Lennox sang Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now.” An all-female ensemble featuring Carlile, Lennox, Cyndi Lauper, Angelique Kidjo, Ledisi and Lucius performed Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” Watch several clips and photos, and see the complete performance list below.

“Joni Mitchell’s music and artistry have left a distinct impression on American culture and internationally, crossing from folk music with a distinctive voice whose songs will stay with us for the ages,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement on Jan. 12 when Mitchell was announced as the recipient. “Mitchell’s music has so many artists and music lovers all singing her tunes. We are honored to present the Gershwin Prize to this musical genius.”

More from that announcement: After getting her start performing in coffee shops and nightclubs in her native Canada, Mitchell would go on to set a new standard marrying music and lyrics. With such songs as “Both Sides, Now,” “Chelsea Morning,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Woodstock” and “The Circle Game,” Mitchell became a household name.

While Mitchell’s early music is often categorized as “folk,” her sound draws as much from jazz, classical and rock as she crossed various musical genres. Her music often encompasses bespoke tunings and song structures that defy categorization. As a lyricist, she delves deeply into both the personal and political, unafraid to explore the raw reality of living underneath societal norms and time-worn traditions.

Mitchell redefined the role of women musicians. She oversaw all aspects of her albums, including songwriting, arrangements, performance, production and artwork.

“This is a very prestigious award,” Mitchell said. “Thank you for honoring me.”

Along with highlights from her endlessly influential songbook, Mitchell’s visual art is featured prominently throughout the show, and the live band is full of longtime collaborators and friends (Greg Phillinganes, music director; Ben Lusher, piano; Greg Leisz, pedal steel and guitar; Larry Klein, bass; Brian Blade, drums; Mark Isham, trumpet; Blake Mills, guitar; and Celisse, guitar).

Graham Nash performs “A Case of You” at the 2023 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song concert honoring Joni Mitchell at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., March 1, 2023. (Photo: Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)

Performance List
Joni Mitchell – “SUMMERTIME”
James Taylor – “CALIFORNIA”
Annie Lennox – “BOTH SIDES, NOW”
Brandi Carlile, Angélique Kidjo, Cyndi Lauper, Annie Lennox, Ledisi, Lucius – “BIG YELLOW TAXI”
Marcus Mumford – “CAREY”
Herbie Hancock & Ledisi – “RIVER”
Brandi Carlile & Lucius – “SHINE”
Cyndi Lauper – “BLUE”
Graham Nash – “A CASE OF YOU”
Angélique Kidjo – “HELP ME”
Diana Krall – “FOR THE ROSES”

Bestowed in recognition of the legendary songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin, the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is the nation’s highest award for influence, impact and achievement in popular music. The honoree is selected by the Librarian of Congress in consultation with a board of scholars, producers, performers, songwriters and other music specialists.

Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Garth Brooks, and Lionel Richie.

More photos from the 2023 concert…

Annie Lennox performs “Both Sides Now” (Photo: Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)

Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honoree Joni Mitchell performs with Brandi Carlile (Photo: Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)

James Taylor performs at the 2023 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song concert honoring Joni Mitchell (Photo: Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)

Mitchell signed to Reprise Records in 1968, the same year she released her debut, “Song To A Seagull.” The albums that followed set a new standard for the marriage of music and lyrics and made her the premier female singer-songwriter of a revolutionary new generation of artists.

The accolades bestowed on Mitchell have been vast, including multiple Grammy Awards®, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Polar Music Prize, MusiCares Person of the Year, and inductions into both the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In her native Canada, Mitchell has received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honor in the performing arts, and has been named a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honor. She was also recently presented an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music.

Mitchell has never stopped making art, most recently launching the Joni Mitchell Archives, which began with her curating her vast catalog to reveal hours of previously unissued studio and live recordings. In 2022, Mitchell won a Grammy for producing the first volume in the series, Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963 to 1967).

2023 is set to be another landmark year for Joni Mitchell as she brings her Joni Jam to the stage for her first headlining concert in over two decades at Washington state’s legendary Gorge Amphitheatre in June.

The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is the nation’s highest award for influence, impact and achievement in popular music. Established in 2007, the prize honors living musical artists whose contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin. Criteria for selection include: artistic merit; influence in promoting music as a vehicle of cultural understanding; impact and achievement in entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations of musicians.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. MAK
    #1 MAK 1 April, 2023, 08:33

    I saw Joni Mitchell at Newport Folk in 1967? I think. 1st time hearing her. She was and is amazing. Thanks for the great music.

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