Fellow Amit Chaudhuri’s N+1 essay about his appreciation for Joni Mitchell
‘In my mid-teens, I realized that Joni Mitchell was unique, and that she presented—musically and poetically—an alternative to Dylan’s extravagance and his mock-preacher’s hectoring style. I adored her. But by the early ’80s I’d recast myself as an Indian classical musician. I lost touch with her world, and shut out what I had no language to describe: the extinction of that world’s eccentricity—its life—by the free market.
I began to listen to Western popular music again at the end of the ’90s. By now I’d become a performer in Indian classical music but had also realized that the ubiquity of the free market after the fall of the Berlin Wall did not constitute the end of the world: that some kind of creative life could continue within and despite it. It was Mitchell who confirmed this where popular music was concerned. Others who had survived Thatcher, Reagan, disco, the synthesizer, digitization, sequencing—Dylan and Neil Young—were aging with a kind of historical grandeur, a somber playfulness. James Taylor, clean after decades, balding but singing better than he had ever before, simply looked very well. But Mitchell emerged as a contemporary, no longer an alternative to Dylan, but to our idea of what might be possible in the arena of popular music in the new millennium: remaining herself, but not classically so; offering (as she had from the start) revisions of her work.’
Image of Joni Mitchell: Asylum Records [Public domain]