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:
The Grammy Awards 2022 ceremony will occur on April 3, Covid virus willing. The Grammys will honor recording industry achievements in 86 categories. (Click on “Read more” in the link to see the entire list.)
The past couple of decades, I’ve only been able to recognize a few of the nominees. This year, given the postponement of the awards, I’m determined to do my homework and be familiar with at least a few songs and artists I’ve never known before. But no way will I get through the hundreds of nominees.
I thought it might be fun to get to know some of them in at least some categories.
Let’s start with Best Music Video.
All right, this one I’ve seen: Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga singing “I Get a Kick Out of You.” I love their collaboration. Did you see their special? It was awesome!
I’ve loved Jon Batiste for as long as I’ve watched The Late Show. I love the pink suit, and the backup dancers (especially the central four ladies), and the boys drumming on the buckets. Good song, too: “Freedom.”
AC/DC, “Shot in the Dark.” This one gives me School of Rock flashbacks:
I hope the next one doesn’t win, due to the ugly language and dangerous behavior portrayed. Why reward that? Justin Bieber, “Peaches,” featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon:
I want to like Billie Eilish, but this video and song just depress me. “Happier Than Ever”:
Lil Nas X, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” has gorgeous sets, incredible costuming, and wonderful cinematography, but it’s pornography. Inappropriate for this blog. I hope it doesn’t win.
Another break up song, but not as depressing as Eilish’s. If I were thirteen, I’d be rooting for this one: Olivia Rodrigo, “good 4 u.”
But I’m not thirteen. I hope Jon Batiste wins Best Music Video for “Freedom.” I like the song, and I love the exuberance of the performance. I like the large cast and the urban location. I like the bright, vibrant colors–lovely production. And did I mention the dancers?
Now it’s your turn: Which video do you like best, and why? Share in the comments below.
Just for fun, I’m going to tell you all about me—with songs!
I was born in November, 1952, when this song was the most popular on radio:
I grew up in New Jersey. That’s right—I’m a Jersey girl.
I went to a Catholic school from kindergarten through eighth grade. This song was frequently sung in my classroom and my church. I had some of these images on holy cards in my missal:
From third grade through eighth grade and then again in tenth grade I took piano lessons from Sister Mercy. All her students practiced the Czerny exercises:
In high school, my favorite activity was chorus—so much so that I dreamed of being a high school choral conductor. My eyes still tear up whenever I hear kids’ voices.
And so I went to music school, first at Duquesne University, then Monmouth College (now Monmouth University) and finished my B.A. at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) and my M.A. at Trenton State (now The College of New Jersey). In the course of doing a junior practicum at the high school, middle school, and elementary levels, I found out that elementary music class is the happiest place on earth. (Who knew? We didn’t have a regular music class at the parochial school I attended.) So I left my high school dreams behind and worked in elementary school instead. I found a video online of highlights of my kindergarten end-of-year program back in 2011. The theme of the show was the ocean. I’m playing the piano.
Greg and I married in 1974. This was the music for our first dance at our wedding:
From 1979 to 1989 we were busy giving birth to five kids. This song was a common sound in our house during those years:
Now we’re empty nesters. Greg spends his days refinishing gunstocks. I blog and work on my writing.
Now it’s your turn, bloggers especially: Compile a list of songs that tells your story, with videos if possible. Post it on your blog, or on social media, and give us a link in the comments.
It’s been five-and-a-half months since Ringing Praise, my church’s handbell choir, has met. I miss my fellow ringers (though we’ve kept up an active text chain), and also the ethereal timbre of our instruments. Join me as I listen to some wonderful handbell performances.
You might enjoy watching these fullscreen (click on the little broken square on the lower right corner of each video).
Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble:
I am jealous of this group’s bass bells. Dancing Queen:
Here’s what happened when the Handbell Musicians of American had their 2020 Symposium online in July:
Let It Go played on handchimes:
Flight of the Bumblebee:
Lion King medley:
I first became aware of 2Cellos when a Facebook friend posted this video:
Notice the guys’ raggedy bows, with the horsehair hanging down? Before this video, I’d never seen that before. No self-respecting cellist would perform with his bow in that condition.
Now it’s a trend.
I had the good fortune of sitting in a front row seat when they performed at a local venue a few years ago. They played so fast and so hard that I could literally smell the horsehair on their bows burning. I understand how their bows got that way.
The duo is made up of Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser. Hauser, born in Pula, Croatia, and Šulić, born in Maribor, Slovenia, are classically trained musicians. They met while still in their teens. Šulić attended the Academy of Music in Zagreb, and then studied in Vienna. He later entered London’s Royal Academy of Music. Hauser attended the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, after completing his studies at Trinity Laban in London. Before they became partners, the two cellists were sometimes rivals, competing against each other in music contests.
Despite their musical success in the United Kingdom, Hauser and Šulić struggled financially until a friend suggested making the music video cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” The duo rose to fame in 2011 after their video became a hit on YouTube, receiving over three million views in the first two weeks.
After Elton John watched the “Smooth Criminal” video online, he personally called Šulić and invited the duo to appear with him on his thirty-one city 2011 summer tour.
2Cellos has recorded four albums with Sony Masterworks.
Though their video covers of pop music have made them famous, they both still perform classically, soloing with major symphony orchestras around the world.
It’s difficult to find information about the duo known as The Harp Twins without hiring a private detective. For example, no online source reveals their birthday or their age. The most complete biography I found is the one that appears on their website.
Camille and Kennerly Kitt have acted in movies and commercials. They’re both third-degree black belts in tae kwon do.
Both graduated summa cum laude from the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College with Bachelor of Music degrees in harp performance. Though classically trained, they are better known for their many YouTube covers of rock songs and soundtracks. They’ve also recorded four albums.
They play movie themes while wearing related costumes:
And they’ve also done video game themes:
No one knows how hard it is to go on tour with harps:
I can’t look away. Does that mean I’m addicted to Harp Twins videos?
I’m sure you have a busy day today, celebrating the Lord’s birth with family and friends (or maybe not).
So, rather than burden you with a lengthy article about the season, I’d like to just share some music. Sit back, relax, enjoy.
My favorite acapella group:
My favorite scene from my favorite Christmas movie:
I dare you to watch this without your eyes tearing up:
Old favorite in a new way:
Everybody’s favorite singing chickens:
No collection of Christmas music would be complete without:
And for your New Year’s Eve pleasure, another Zooey Deschanel duet: