Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words – An Excerpt

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Posted by Greg on November 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm
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Malka Marom’s Joni Mitchell – In Her Own Words was recently released by ECW Press. The book is told through a series of interviews along with Joni’s paintings, lyrics and photographs. Here’s an exclusive excerpt from the book’s introduction by Malka. Enjoy!

Introduction

One November night in 1966, I was driving in circles, around one block, then another, which was very strange. I always drove with purpose from point A to point B, no meandering, no detours, pressing over the speed limit sometimes — okay, most times. Trying to juggle a big career and a household with two little children and a bad marriage, I was always rushing, yet could never catch up. Why did I deviate from my norm that night? I don’t know. Earlier that evening I had been dealt a crucial dilemma, but instead of sleeping on it, as common sense demanded, I was driving on it. Driving from one dark and deserted street to another — they rolled Toronto up for the night very early in those days. It was already winter cold, and the usually humming Yorkville Village was deserted. Even the winos and the flower children had taken shelter. The only light still on was above the entrance to the Riverboat coffeehouse.

I had never gone alone to a club, a bar, or a coffeehouse so late at night. “Only streetwalkers go out alone late at night,” my mother had drilled into me ever since I reached puberty. But it was a night like no other night already, and maybe because the street was deserted and no one could see me, I got out of the car and went down the steps into the basement that housed the Riverboat.

Inside, the coffeehouse was a dark hole. After the eyes adjusted, you could see that the place was empty, except at the back — was that two of the staff making out? Long and narrow, the coffeehouse resembled a submarine more than a riverboat and, at a squeeze, could hold 120 people decked out in their fab, groovy, or funky attires. They would fall into a hush as soon as the house lights dimmed, crowding so close to the stage they could almost touch performers like Odetta, Gordon Lightfoot, or Neil Young. But on this November night, bereft of their presence, the place looked forlorn. And devoid of the veil of their cigarette smoke, the naked décor seemed embarrassingly tacky: the blue glass in the portholes windows was too harsh to suggest river or sky, and the brass that ringed each window was Vegas glitzy. But the pine-panelled walls enhanced the acoustics of a sound system so good it lured musicians from all over the continent to perform there. Solid-wood slab tables anchored the booths and lent the place a sense of permanence uncommon to most of the other coffeehouses that were sprouting in Yorkville Village like mushrooms after a summer soak. I slid quietly into the darkest booth nearest to the door.

On the lit-up stage — a platform only a foot, if that, off the floor — stood a girl who must have picked out her miniskirt at the Salvation Army. With her back turned to the empty seats, she seemed totally engrossed in trying to tune her guitar and failing, trying and failing, which gave me the impression that she was one of the waitresses who had nothing better to do than to playact at being the performer.

“Compliments of the house, Malka,” whispered a server as he rested a cappuccino in front of me.

“Thank you.” My fingers clasped the cup to warm up. I savoured the aroma and sipped the cappuccino slowly, very slowly. I was in no hurry that night. I felt like I was sneaking out of life, and like stolen water it was sweet.

The girl on the stage also seemed to be in no hurry to do anything but tune and retune her guitar, tune and retune. My cappuccino cup stood empty and still she kept turning the knob of one string, then another, this way and that way, a bit higher and just a bit lower — but with such intensity that, like a magnet, it drew you out of yourself. She turned to face the empty seats and, leaning closer to the mike, she strummed a progression of chords with a surprisingly assertive hand. They were unlike any chords I’d heard before. I found myself hanging on every note. And then she started to sing. From verse to verse, her song was like a kaleidoscope that splintered my perception, turned it round and round, then refocused to illuminate a reality I had not dared to see.

As she sang, I realized there was no more escaping into hope now, into illusions or denial. “I had a king in a salt-rusted carriage / Who carried me off to his country for marriage too soon.” My marriage was a bust.

This girl, who looked no older than seventeen or eighteen — twenty at most — portrayed an existential reality with such power, it broke me down even as it lifted my spirits. Whoever she was, her unique gifts generated an extraordinary elation inside me. I applauded till my hands burned, but compared to how I felt, my applause sounded hollow.

The singer nodded her appreciation. She was standing now, almost a little pigeon-toed, her cheap miniskirt askew, and as she inched her way closer to the microphone for the start of her closing song, she let her long blond hair cover her face, almost like she wanted to disappear and just let the songs be who she was.

My chest expanded from the sheer beauty of it.

As soon as she stepped off the platform and started to take her guitar strap off, I slid out of my booth and hurried over to her. “What an artist you are! What a musician!” I gushed like a lunatic wildly high. “Where did you find these incredible songs? Don’t tell me you composed them — did you compose these songs?”

“Yeah.”

“You did? My God, what an enormous talent you are! Immense! And what a range, your voice, four octaves, even five — huge range! And the poetry! What a poet you are, as wonderful as Dylan and Leonard Cohen!”

“Really?” she muttered, astonished.

“Really, really. You’re going to be acclaimed the world over, or else this world is a much dumber place than it appeared to be before you sang your songs tonight. Who are you?”

“Joni Mitchell.”

“I’m Malka.”

“I know who you are.”

“Your songs certainly know who I am,” I said, hoping that she didn’t know of me from the silly TV talk shows, or from the Johnny Carson shows. Even my appearance at Carnegie Hall, the Place des Arts, and all the concert tours felt dwarfed now by that one set of Joni Mitchell.

And yet, “you don’t know what you’ve got / Till it’s gone.” It was well after my singing partnership with Joso was “gone” that we, Malka & Joso, came to be regarded as a major force in changing the perception that the immigrants of Canada were not aliens but importers of vitality, hope, daring, ancient and avant-garde sophistication, humour, and culture.

Well, to be more exact, for a brief while before it was gone, the accomplishments of Malka & Joso were recognized in 1966, the very autumn I first met Joni. It lasted only for the proverbial fifteen minutes, but it was a very big deal back then that the official face and voice of English Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, programmed a new weekly show, A World of Music starring Malka & Joso, which aired coast to coast in the dream broadcasting slot — following the hockey game on Saturday night.

It was the first time that World music (“Ethnic music,” it was called then) was accorded such prominent recognition in English Canada after years, decades really, of being relegated to basements, as if there were something subversive about it. Basements of churches, community centres, the YMHA, as well as those of immigrants from nearly all the continents and many of the islands. And only recently the basements of coffeehouses — out of which trailed long lines awaiting the next set of Malka & Joso.

And yet, the mores of Colonial England in those days were so deeply rooted in Canada that almost as soon as the cultural epicentre of English Canada decided to recognize and promote an expression of the cultures that were now penetrating its boundaries, it started to pull a Pygmalion on us, the ambassadors of those cultures. “Somebody teach Malka and Joso to speak English and to sing in English without their terrible foreign accents, for heaven’s sake. And do it fast,” decreed CBC management.

Joso was willing to accommodate them. “This CBC is a gold mine,” he’d tell me in Italian; he could hardly speak English. But oh, could that man sing! Andrea Bocelli would have nothing on Joso Spralja. There wasn’t a song in any language — even English — that Joso couldn’t sing divinely, no matter how he mangled the pronunciation of the lyrics. Joso’s hearing was so acute, he could learn a harmony the minute he heard it, but when it came to parroting a sentence of even just five words in English, even after he heard it a hundred times from one CBC Professor Higgins or another, there was something that blocked him from doing it. To compensate, Joso agreed to cover his handsome, balding head with a toupee that management “suggested” he don and, just as they suggested, he had a dentist plug the gap between his front two teeth. And above all, or more correctly below, he acquiesced to refrain from jutting out his hips, from moving them in any way that would suggest manhood. He shrugged it off; that’s how he expressed his manhood now. And only when he thought I couldn’t hear, he’d whisper to his wife, Angiolina, “It takes a crew of dumb-assed no-talent dickheads to turn a beauty that the camera loves as it does Malka into an ugly woman.”

“Don’t let them get to you,” he urged me in Italian. “Bend, bend — a reed that doesn’t bend breaks.”

I tried, really tried, not to balk at the constant attempts to transform me. The cheques for this gig were not “a gold mine,” but I certainly needed them. So I really tried to bend, and to be careful not to bruise anyone’s ego up in management whenever I had to bring to their attention “details” like their arrangement of a Greek song requiring a bit of a change because the monotonic oompah-oompah rhythm was not Greek. And still they considered me “arrogant.” So I tried my best deferential demeanour when I brought to their attention that their translation of the Italian song was incorrect and, since there’s a large Italian community in Canada, it would have to be fixed. Well, they corrected the translation, but they didn’t appreciate my “tone.” So I tried to tone it down the next few times they butchered a song and/or a translation. But I still got on their nerves and their stiff upper lip went to hell. They deemed me a “stupid bitch” behind my back, “uninformed” to my face. “Broadcasting is a matter of ratings,” they went on to explain, as if I were a brainless novice. “The majority of our audience is comprised of ‘the little woman in Saskatoon, the little woman in Regina’ . . .” (It was never “the little man in . . .”)

“These ‘little women’ loved us in Regina just as we are, and they loved us even more in Saskatoon. That’s why you booked us for this TV gig, no?” I blurted, forgetting to tone it down, and by their reaction you’d think I’d dropped the atom bomb.

Joso let me have it later when we were alone. “Are you crazy?! Crazy! Dumb to talk back to them! They’ll cancel our show! You’ll have no money to get out of your marriage . . . no money to support your two kids if you won’t do what they want us to do. And what about me? You know I need every penny to support my family. Come on, don’t be selfish. Pretend it’s a game.”

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t play this game without laughing or crying at how bizarre and sad it was to be selling out, prostituting our gifts, artistry, achievements — our souls, really — and for what?

In my broken Italian, I told Joso, “The glue that bound us was the sheer joy of making music, and where is it now? Remember how good it was to be true to the essence of our music? How good it was to give voice to the voiceless? How well our talents served us — better than this fool’s gold.”

“Spare me this bullshit. Artistic integrity is for the self-indulgent super-rich English Canadian. Get real!” he responded as I was getting into my car that night in November ’66 that led me to Joni Mitchell, a woman who would be no stranger to battles over artistic integrity.

The day after I met Joni, I phoned the A&R guy at my record company and raved about Joni and her songs: “A unique enormous talent; you’ve got to get down to the Riverboat to see her — you’ll be grateful to me for the rest of your life for this tip.”

“What’s the name of this unique enormous talent?”

“Joni Mitchell.”

“Never heard of her.”

“That’s why you’ll have the honour of being the first to discover and record her. Your name will be remembered for that . . .” It took all of my persuasive powers to move that A&R man to the Riverboat.

But once there, he kept drumming his fingers on the table while Joni tuned and retuned her guitar. His impatience plugged his ears to the “chords of inquiry,” as Joni called those chords that send you to the edge and keep you hanging there. By the time Joni sang “Night in the City,” he had no ears to hear her. “This singer has no stage presence, she’ll amount to nothing,” he decreed in a whisper, then left in the middle of her set.

I made no mention of him to Joni when I approached her after her last set that night. This time I asked her if it would be alright to sing one or two of her songs, even though my foreign accent wouldn’t do them justice.

Right there, Joni scribbled down the lyrics of “I Had a King,” “Night in the City,” and “The Circle Game” for me.

I sang them at every gig thereafter, and I advised the audience to remember the name Joni Mitchell and her songs, so that they’d be able to boast that they had heard her songs and name before she became famous. When that day arrived, I dropped her songs from my repertoire because, alas, I didn’t sing them well — to put it kindly.

By then, my singing partner Joso had become my former singing partner — partly because of my “stupid integrity.” But just as he had predicted, I came out of my marriage penniless with two little children to support.

Yet even he did not foresee the stigma attached to being a divorced single mother in “Toronto the Good,” as it was sometimes called in those days. The term “single mother” had yet to be invented, and a divorced woman was regarded not only as a loser, but loose.

Landlord after landlord told me without any compunction that they wouldn’t rent the advertised apartment to a divorced single mother of two little children. And the ones who recognised me from TV, live performances, or the papers apologised before informing me that they wouldn’t rent me the apartment they’d advertised because “we don’t rent to entertainers, you know. Entertainers are always late with the rent, always make noise, trash the place . . .”

Now I discovered that I was no longer a singer, not to mention an artist, but an entertainer. A name that plunged my esteem even lower than “divorced single mother of two” — not only in the eyes of the landlords, but in the opinion of my children’s teachers and their friends’ parents.

It also relegated me to “fair game,” or so it appeared on a night when I had to sing five sets and it was close to 3 a.m. that I headed to my duplex — for which I was charged nearly double the advertised rent. I’d driven less than ten minutes when a policeman stopped me — for speeding, I thought, or failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

“What are you doing so late at night, driving alone?” the policeman inquired. And maybe because of the way he leaned over my window, or because he flashed his flashlight onto my face, or because of the stigma I’d faced lately, I wished I had removed the stage makeup back in the dressing room.

“I’ve just finished work,” I replied.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a singer.”

“Ah, an entertainer!” the policeman exclaimed, then added that he’d follow me to make sure I made it home safely.

It did no good to assure him that I’d be alright. His headlights kept blinding me in my rear-view mirror. The longer he tailed me, the more I feared that his intention might not be all that honourable. By then, I knew that no judge would take the word of an “entertainer” over the word of a policeman. I was shaking when I veered into the nearest fire station. And only then did that policeman stop tailing me.

The next night, just in case that policeman was that “one rotten apple in the bushel of ‘our finest,’” Gordy Lightfoot insisted he drive behind me. And wouldn’t you know, that same “rotten apple” stopped me at the same corner. Before I rolled down my window, Gordy jumped out of his car and said, “I’m with her. What’s the problem, Officer?” That’s all it took to stop his unwanted attention. Yet I felt defeated — for a woman who liked to think of herself as independent and quite strong, it was sad, humiliating really, that I’d need the protection of a man, be he even a “low down entertainer” like me. And not in a seedy or dangerous part of town, but in one of the safest parts of a city considered to be one of the safest in North America. This was the same Toronto the Good in which, a few years earlier, Joni, as an unwed mother, was subjected to extreme cruelty, abject poverty, and indignity much worse than I ever had to endure.

“The road” was starting to get tiresome. I cut most concert tours and out-of-town gigs as my children approached that age when a parent should stay home to supervise them. Wanting to find a job based in Toronto was altogether different than actually finding one. Frankly I didn’t know how or where to begin. Despite my success as a singer, I had no degrees to show prospective employers — no music degree, and no schooling in theatre or TV. I was wracking my brains, as well as my friends’, and knocking on doors to no avail. Until one Sunday, while watching 60 Minutes on TV, it came to me that compared to singing, broadcast journalism was a cinch: just stick a mike in someone’s face and ask question after question.

So I put on a suit and started to knock on doors at the CBC. The response wasn’t encouraging: “You can’t sing and do broadcast journalism. Journalism is a full-time job. Anyway, you’re not going to quit singing, not if I can help it.” You could have got whiplash from the change at the CBC, where I was now suddenly regarded as God’s gift to World music.

They got tired of my pestering, I think, and perhaps to show me that you can’t switch from music to broadcast journalism, “just like that, like changing hats,” the late Don Cameron assigned me to interview country singer Charley Pride on live TV. “Screw up on this, and you’ll be the laughing stock of the whole country,” he warned. “Are you sure you still want to do it?”

“Yes, sure.” It was probably a first for Charley Pride that a journalist leaned on him, physically, throughout a whole interview. I was so scared. Yet, ironically, they gave me the break I’d been pestering them for, because I had “the nerve to go for it.”

One of the very few times in my life that I was right about anything was that night in November ’66 when I told Joni that she was an enormous talent bound to be acclaimed the world over.

I had had no contact with Joni since then, except through her songs. Seven years after that night in November, I remarried, purchased a house with a big mortgage, and I was working double shifts at TV studios, recording studios, and editing rooms. One day, I switched on my car radio and I heard Joni singing: “I’m going to make a lot of money / Then I’m going to quit this crazy scene / Oh I wish I had a river / I could skate away on . . .” I laughed, thinking how Joni still understood me.

I’d heard that she had not granted interviews in the past few years; still I decided to give it a try. How to reach her? I had no idea. In ’73 there was no Google. I dialled 0 for the operator. Luckily, I got a terrific phone operator who was more than glad to help me find a contact number for Joni Mitchell. She was a fan, and she stayed with me until we found the phone number of Joni’s recording company, which shunted us from one person to another, until someone gave us the number of Joni’s management company.

“I’d like to speak with Joni Mitchell,” I said to the person who picked up the phone.

“Does she know you?”

“I don’t know. We met briefly seven years ago.”

“Who shall I say wants to speak with her?”

“Malka.”

“Who? Can you spell it?”

Later that day, my phone rang. I picked up the receiver and heard, “Malka! It’s Joni, how are you? So glad to hear from you!”

I was so excited by her response I could barely muster the voice to ask if I could fly over to interview her for CBC Radio. “Just me and a recording machine,” I promised.

“Sure, come over, we are in rehearsals but come over.” She gave me her address before she hung up, but when I arrived, I thought I had the wrong place. The house looked like a movie star’s — huge pool, manicured garden amid terraces that stretched forever, pillars out of Gone with the Wind. It didn’t seem like a house that someone like Joni would live in. (Much later I learned that Joni was staying there as a guest of David Geffen, who had rented this house from a movie star.)

Joni invited me to have tea in the kitchen, and that’s where most of the ’73 interview was conducted. But even before she started to brew the tea, I suggested that
we talk only when I was recording. She agreed, and we stuck to this rule through the five days of interviewing. Quite a few portions of that interview were recorded with the preamble “off the record.” In one of those moments, Joni told me of her efforts to find the baby girl she had “out of wedlock.” I kept that tape in my safe deposit box at the bank for nearly twenty years until it became common knowledge. A while later, when PBS was interviewing me for their program on Joni, the executive producer told me that not many journalists would be that loyal — that foolish, she meant, judging by her expression.

The rehearsals that Joni had mentioned on the phone were in preparation for the tour to launch her new album, Court and Spark. No one knew then what a mega hit that album would be. And yet those rehearsals were bubbling with the elation and joy of artists who loved what they were creating, knew that it was truly great, and believed that it would resonate with whoever heard it.

Rehearsal halls look the same the world over, or so it seemed when I walked into this nondescript space. There were musical instruments galore — resting in their cases, open or closed, on any flat surface — and a full set of drums, and then some, at the back. Ashtrays were heaped with cigarettes, their smoke still curling through the air. Most everyone was wearing jeans — expensive jeans, perhaps; most of the musicians worked as studio musicians in Hollywood earning top dollar. But despite their casual attire, they were professional and attentive.

One of Joni’s many talents is to surround herself with musicians, like her recording engineer Henry Lewy with whom she recorded and produced thirteen albums,
who embrace her originality and spur her on to change and push confidently in new directions.

During a break in rehearsal, when I interviewed Tom Scott and the other musicians of the L.A. Express band, I learned from them just how unique Joni’s music was, and how challenging it was to play it and to note it, or “map it,” as John Guerin, the drummer/percussionist who put the music to paper, called it. (In a later interview, Joni mentioned that Guerin also inspired the album’s title, as he was courting and sparking her at the time.)

Watching those rehearsals, I felt that Court and Spark was bound to be a watershed album. Joni’s image of the vulnerable sole being on the vast stage changed drastically when she sang with the band. There was a certain power and confidence, and something masculine about it, that was conveyed through the bass and the drums. It was such a dramatic change, it drove me to ask her if she thought that by singing with a band she might lose something, lose that vulnerable image.

“I don’t want to be vulnerable,” Joni replied, and then laughed — the laughter that I later came to recognize as a sort of editorial laughter.

Joni’s candour could be unsettling from the start, and it became even more so as she demanded of herself “a deeper and greater honesty, and more revelation” in her work in order to affect listeners. She wanted to “strike against the very nerves of their life and, in order to do that, you have to strike against the very nerves of your own.” Her fearless openness has been described as “the secret to her impossible-to-bottle essence” (Toronto Star).

After the ’73 interview, we continued to meet as friends, at her house in L.A. and at her place in B.C. — and at mine in Toronto, to visit with my cat, Joni said; she would turn into a kitten when she played with that cat.

Joni could also turn into a trickster, like when she came to Toronto with the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975 and invited me to keep her company in her dressing room while she waited for her turn to go on stage. It was a long show, four hours give or take, so we had loads of time to catch up on our lives. After the finale, Joni suggested I meet Bob Dylan before he disappeared from his dressing room. She laughed when I told her that I didn’t want to meet Bob Dylan in passing, like the groupies; I’d rather she and I went out to Chinatown. “Oh come on, you’ve got to meet him. Dylan is one of the greatest in our generation,” she insisted, and playfully she took hold of my hand and led me through that cavernous backstage, past the scary-looking hefty guys who were securing the “inner sanctum” where Dylan stood half-naked, his shoulder bleeding from the pull of his guitar strap, sweat dripping over his white clown makeup.

“Bobby,” Joni said to Dylan, while pulling me to face him. “Bobby, I’d like you to meet the only person I know who doesn’t want to meet you.”

Though she is as famous as Dylan, I’ve never seen Joni surrounded by bodyguards. Whenever we went for a walk or to a café or restaurant, most people would respect her privacy; they’d smile or wave hello, a few would come over to thank her for the songs, and then they’d go on with their own lives.

In 1979, just before her Mingus record came out, I recorded our second interview, in which Joni told of her encounter with the legendary Charles Mingus, the jazz master, the artist, the man. She recounted how he came to choose her for this record and what a struggle it was for her to come through for him, and how she overcame her writing block. Then she went on to reveal in riveting detail how each song on this album came to her — and how stinging the rejection of records like The Hissing of Summer Lawns was for her. And yet it obviously didn’t deter her from forging boldly to yet another unexplored direction — aiming higher and further in each of the works she recorded after Mingus: Wild Things Run Fast, Dog Eat Dog, Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, Night Ride Home, Turbulent Indigo, Taming the Tiger, Both Sides Now, Travelogue, Shine.

I was itching to touch on these albums with Joni, especially when I saw how much more profound the first two interviews were on the page than on the air, where they passed by all too quickly. The page, to my amazement, transposed the interviews to the realm beyond time, beyond the personal to the universal.

So in 2012, more than forty years after Joni first came to my life, I recorded the third interview, mostly in her “library,” as I call the dining room of her beautiful L.A. home because of the books heaped on every surface: the dining room table, the sideboard, the side tables, the coffee table, the floor, the windowsills . . . In this interview, Joni, approaching her seventieth birthday, reflected on what it took to create her vast and truly great body of work over more than half a century, as well as on life in the arts and for the arts, over the changing decades.

When I reread the transcripts of all the interviews that were recorded over the years, I was astonished at the extent to which Joni and I had tried to crack something so mysterious, something that had eluded countless others: the creative process itself, in all its fullness. Joni and I had tried to approach it from every possible angle that might offer a clue: childhood and adulthood, running away from home and yearning to return home, love and loss, working on the road in dives and at huge festivals, poverty and affluence, glamorous triumphs and tragic mistakes.

At the end of our interviews, although the origin of the muse or how to tease her remained elusive, what became very clear is that Joni had the courage to get on that “tightrope walk to keep your heart alive, to keep your art alive, to keep it vital and useful to others. To encounter and in a way, be in touch with the miraculous” (PBS’s American Masters).

Strangely, although Joni has been accorded recognition and awards of all shapes and kinds in many parts of the world, she mentions the lack of recognition accorded to her music, her songwriting, and her poetry, and she sort of denigrates many of her awards, so as not to sit on her laurels and to remain humble: the stance of a true artist as she continues to lure the muse. Or so it seemed at one moment. But then she goes, “You want me to be humble, but . . . I’m defending my right to arrogance.”

“Joni is a different woman every year,” Henry Lewy, her recording engineer, explained in the ’79 interview. “It’s like meeting a different lady every year. Somebody who’s grown, who’s advanced, and who has something new to share with you.”

“I want to be a pioneer, not a traditionalist,” said Joni. “It does put you kind of in no man’s land. Sometimes you think, ‘Geez, look what I’ve done with my life. Wonder they haven’t stoned me to death at this point.’ I’m too different in many ways. I’ve made myself too individuated in a time when individualism is massively discouraged.”

Her favourite compliment, she told me, was accorded to her by a black and blind piano player: “Joni, you make genderless, raceless music.” Joni noted, “I hadn’t set out to make ‘genderless, raceless music.’ But I did want to make music that crossed . . . I never really liked lines, class lines, social structure lines, and I ignored them always.”

Yes, Joni is an artist who won’t be slotted into any category, and she has always been “going over the edge of the box,” as she put it. Yet Joni maintains in her song “Borderline”: “All convictions grow along a borderline [ . . . ] All liberty is laced with / Borderlines.”

“All liberty is laced with borderlines?” I asked her during our most recent interview.

“Everything,” Joni replied. “If you belong, whatever you belong to has a perimeter. Me, I don’t belong to much, so, in a certain way, I’m very free, but when I get into trouble, I have no support system, no allies, no peers. But what cost, liberty? In order to be free, not boxed in . . .”

And what tremendous strength to really believe in something intangible, to live with great respect for this mystery, and with an openness, to invite this mystery — the muse, the creative spring.

On that November night in ’66, the vulnerable girl on the stage kept tuning and retuning, one guitar peg then another, and retuning yet again and again, almost as if she knew even then that she was tuning to the key of timelessness.

Excerpt from Joni Mitchell – In Her Own Words By Malka Marom, ECW Press 2014. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the publisher. Available at your local book store or Amazon.

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