Roberta Joan “Joni” Anderson was born in Alberta, Canada, on November 7, 1943. She is almost exactly 9 years older than me, and her music was a soundtrack of my high school and college years. Her light, incredibly high soprano voice was always impeccably in tune, though she wasn’t afraid to bend a note when she wanted to. She didn’t need scores of musicians backing her up; on many of her songs, she accompanied herself on guitar or piano–that’s it, so simple, so lush, so perfect. She was a gifted songwriter from an early age, and other major performers recorded her songs before she became a star in her own right.
At age nine, Joni contracted polio and was hospitalized for several weeks. The polio permanently weakened the muscles in her left hand. (A few years later, when she taught herself how to play guitar, she compensated for her fingering challenges by using alternate tunings for the strings. These tunings contributed to untraditional harmonies in her compositions.)
Chelsea Morning, recorded live at Carnegie Hall, NYC, February 1, 1969:
In school, Joni struggled with academics. She was more interested in art. (After high school, she went to art school for one year and didn’t really like the focus on technical skill, abstraction, and commercial art. Though she dropped out, painting has always been a major part of her life. She did the artwork for many or all of her album covers.)
By the time she was eleven, she loved singing and dancing and writing poetry, and thought maybe she could be a performer. In October, 1962, just before she turned 19, she started performing folk music in small clubs and coffeehouses.
Big Yellow Taxi:
In 1964, she discovered she was pregnant. Her boyfriend bailed on her, and after she gave birth to her daughter, she placed her in an adoption, because she didn’t have the financial resources to raise her. She needed to go back to performing. (Joni reunited with her daughter in 1997.)
In 1965, Joni met the American folk singer Chuck Mitchell, and they began performing together. They went on tour in the US, and soon married; Joni Anderson officially became Joni Mitchell. The marriage only lasted a couple of years. In 1982, she married bassist Larry Klein. They divorced in 1994.
The Circle Game:
Joni has always had a lot of support from other musicians. Her friendships are a veritable Who’s Who of the folk, rock, pop, and jazz artists from the 1960s through today. She was linked romantically with the likes of Leonard Cohen, David Crosby, Graham Nash, James Taylor, and Jackson Brown, among others.
Around 2000, Joni’s voice began to deepen. Although she was a smoker all her life (she started when she was 9), she believes that the loss of the top of her range is due to nodules on her vocal cords, changes in her larynx, and lingering effects of polio.
Coyote, recorded live at Gordon Lightfoot’s house, with Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn:
Below is an interview from 2013. It is worth your time to watch. One thing she says that really got to me is, “If you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it’ll probably make you cry, and you’ll learn something about yourself, and now you’re getting something out of it.” I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve listened to Joni Mitchell’s music with tears streaming down my cheeks. The combination of her pure voice, simple accompaniment, and poignant lyrics touches me deeply. These days, when I listen to her, I long for the bright, vivacious young woman she was (and for the bright, vivacious young woman I was).
In 2015, Joni suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. Her injury caused a great deal of damage, and she worked very hard at her physical therapy to regain her mobility.
When Joni Mitchell was celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2021, I was heartbroken to see how frail she was, and I wondered if she’d ever perform again.
But you can’t keep Joni down. She recently appeared at the Newport Folk Festival with Brandy Carlile.
Both Sides Now, 2022 Newport Folk Festival:
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was a French Post-Impressionist painter. He is credited with having influenced the transition from impressionism to early 20th century cubism.
Paul’s father was a very successful banker who hoped his son would follow in his footsteps. He sent him to law school, but Paul was more enthusiastic about poetry and art. Paul’s friend Émile Zola invited him to come to Paris, which he did in 1861, planning to study. He applied to the famous École des Beaux Arts, but was turned down, so he attended the Académie Suisse, where he met Camille Pissarro, who became his mentor. He also became acquainted with Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He often spent time in the Louvre, where he copied works of masters such as Michelangelo, Rubens, and Titian.
In 1869, Cézanne met Marie-Hortense Fiquet. They had a son, Paul, in 1872, but did not marry until much later. Cézanne kept their relationship a secret from his father, who gave him a monthly allowance that Paul was afraid he’d withhold if he knew the truth. His fear was well-founded, because when his father found out about his mistress and illegitimate child in 1878, he cut his allowance in half, sending him into great financial difficulty. (Six months later, he increased the allowance substantially.)
When Cézanne finally married Marie-Hortense in 1886, it was to legitimize their son Paul; Cézanne and Fiquet’s relationship had deteriorated long before. Cézanne was socially awkward, shy, moody, irritable, and prone to depression; at least two of his good friends called him “strange.” Yet, Marie-Hortense was his most frequent model for portraits, not that any of them were particularly flattering.
Cézanne bucked Paris’ strict standards for art; he’d not been admitted to the École des Beaux Arts despite applying twice; both the Salon de Paris and the Salon des Refusés refused to display his paintings. He was having very limited success, but he insisted on developing his own style. Pissarro instructed him in impressionistic techniques, but Cézanne’s interpretations were not well-received. Influenced by Gustave Courbet and Eugène Delacroix, he abandoned impressionism and pursued an everyday realism that was free of prettiness or customary symbolism.
I particularly like Cézanne’s landscapes and still lives. His portraits have a roughness that I find unpleasant.
Cézanne’s reputation took off around 1895 with the first solo show of his paintings. Other artists, such as Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Pissarro, purchased his work, and his prices skyrocketed.
In 1886, Cézanne’s father died, leaving his estate to Cézanne’s mother and sisters and a large sum of money to Cézanne. His financial problems were over.
In 1906, Cézanne passed away from pneumonia after suffering hypothermia from being caught in a storm.
Things to admire, and things to try out.
- Beautiful winter quilt.
- King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England.
- How to paint colorful whites in watercolor.
- I know you don’t know these people, but if you like to look at wedding photos, these are beautiful. The bride is one of my favorite bloggers, and I enjoy wedding pictures, especially because my youngest daughter got married last December.
- Insect portraits.
- Award-winning photographs on Flickr.
- A fun painting tutorial. I can’t wait to try this!
- Quilters, do you prewash fabric yardage when you bring it home from the store, in order to preshrink it and get rid of sizing and excess dye? And does it tie itself up in knots so that no amount of ironing gets the wrinkles out? Try this technique, which greatly reduces the wrinkles.
- Back exercises for writers. (Sitting at a computer for hours is bad for your posture.)
- Tips for becoming a better photographer.
- I love these sketches of people busy in the kitchen.
- For prospective first-time authors: How much do you really need to know about publishing if your manuscript isn’t finished yet?
For most of my life, whenever I remembered my childhood, especially my elementary school years, I remembered myself as behaving according to the rules.
But now that I’m well into the last decades of my life, long-forgotten incidents are emerging from my memory that contradict my early self-image.
A few years ago I remembered this incident from when I was a Brownie.
Yesterday I remembered an episode of non-compliance in first grade.
I’ve shared that I am a child of German immigrants, and that I went to parochial school from kindergarten through eighth grade. My parents were careful to speak to my brother and me in English, so that we would grow up with English as our first language. But my mother also taught us a little bit of German, including a prayer.
There were 67 students in my first grade class. Amazing, right? Impossible. But this was during the baby boom. There had been two kindergarten classes, and when we were promoted to first grade, the school had a teacher shortage, and only one teacher for first grade, so they combined us. Our teacher, Sister Gracita, struggled to keep this vast community of six-year-olds under control, and apparently, I was one of her major challenges. She was constantly telling my mother I was “too talkative.” Moi?
I recall one time she took me outside the door of our classroom and told me there were “66 other students in our classroom who are trying to learn” and I was preventing them from doing so. My mind immediately went to arithmetic: 66 students + me = 67, and I lived at 67 Park Avenue! What a coincidence! I wanted to tell Sister, but I sensed she wasn’t interested.
Later that year, we had a visitor to our classroom, another nun. She must have been a supervisor from the diocese, there to observe the teacher, because Sister Gracita had been prepping us on our lessons and our behavior. Toward the end of the visit, Sister said, “And Andrea knows a prayer in German! Andrea, can you please say your German prayer?”
What? All year Sister had been on my case for talking too much, and now she wanted me to perform like a one-trick pony? “No.”
Sister asked again, and I refused again. She asked why, and I said, “I don’t want to.” Sister changed the subject, but later she called my mother and told her I embarrassed her in front of the bigwig. Of course, my mother was mortified, but I didn’t see her point.
Now, 53 years later, I get it, but I’m amazed that I stood my ground when I was six. I really thought I grew up with a healthy respect for authority figures. Now I’m realizing I was a little rebel.