When Joni Mitchell’s Musical Comeback Began

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The Recording Academy’s 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year event honored Joni Mitchell on April 1 in Las Vegas. (The evening was originally planned for Jan. 29 but was delayed when the 64th Annual Grammy Awards were moved to April 3.) What made the evening particularly noteworthy was that Mitchell was a surprise performer.

Several months earlier, on December 5, 2021, Mitchell received Kennedy Center Honors, with Berry Gordy, Bette Midler, and others.

Stephen Stills on the red carpet at the 2022 MusiCares event

Stephen Stills was among those celebrating the legendary singer-songwriter at the MusiCares ceremony and concert. Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015. On the red carpet, Stills told USA Today, “We were really worried about her and now here she is.” Stills joined Brandi Carlile for a rousing performance of Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”

Mitchell, then 78, joined the assembled performers to sing “The Circle Game” and “Big Yellow Taxi.” It’s believed to be the first time she had sung in public since 2013. Watch it below.

On Jan. 5, the Grammys were delayed for two months as the announcement cited the “uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant” and the “health and safety of those in our music community, the live audience and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly to produce” the show. The big event was moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Mitchell, born Nov. 7, 1943, was the organization’s 31st annual Person of the Year. Two days later, Mitchell accepted a Grammy Award for Best Historical Album for Vol. 1 of her Archives Series, covering her Early Years (1963-’67).

Proceeds from the event at the MGM Grand’s Marquee Ballroom provide essential support for MusiCares, which describes itself in a press release as “the leading music charity providing music professionals health and human services across a spectrum of needs.”

Joining Stills and Carlile were fellow GRAMMY® Award-winning artists Herbie Hancock, Sara Bareilles, Cyndi Lauper, Chaka Khan, Leon Bridges, and Pentatonix and GRAMMY nominees Black Pumas, Jon Batiste, Maggie Rogers, and Mickey Guyton. Carlile and Batiste also served as Artistic Directors for the night, a first for Person of the Year.

Watch many of the night’s performers join Mitchell to sing “Big Yellow Taxi”

The MusiCares Person of the Year tribute ceremony is “one of the most prestigious events held during Grammy Week,” said the original announcement when Mitchell was chosen.

“I’m honored to be chosen as Person of the Year by this great charity,” said Mitchell beforehand. At the event, she said, “That was such an incredible evening for me. To hear my music performed so well by everyone that was on stage, I can retire now and just let other people do it.”

The original press release noted: “As the industry heals from the recent pandemic and live music returns, so does the Person of the Year tribute. Since 1991, money raised from this gala goes toward MusiCares programs and services that assist the music community, including physical and mental health, addiction recovery, preventative clinics, unforeseen personal emergencies, and disaster relief. The safety of our honorees, guests, performers, and staff is our first priority. The event will follow all necessary COVID-19 precautions, safety guidelines and requirements set forth by health officials.”

Mitchell joined a list of recent MusiCares Person of the Year honorees including Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Dolly Parton, and the 2020 honorees, Aerosmith.

Several months’ later, Mitchell was a surprise performer at the Newport Folk Festival. She returned to the stage on March 1, 2023, at the concert honoring her as the recipient of the Gershwin Prize For Popular Song by the Library of Congress. Her first announced full-length concert since 2000 took place on June 10, 2023.

Listen to Mitchell’s original recording of “Free Man in Paris”

Related: Our Album Rewind of Joni’s Court and Spark album

Mitchell’s vast recording archives are available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. Da Mick
    #1 Da Mick 3 April, 2022, 17:22

    While I’m certainly glad that she’s still with us, it’s still undeniably sad what life’s tolls do to even the best of us.

    Reply this comment
    • melf
      melf 6 April, 2022, 02:36

      Yeah, must agree, would like to remember Joni as the multi-talented songwriter we all know. That video reunion doesn’t do her justice and is really hard to watch.
      Think I’ll pull one of her CDs, Court and Spark, and listen to that. Woodstock is her signature, that’s what will go into musical history forever.

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