In Praise of Joni Mitchell

This article was last updated on May 27, 2022

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Joni Mitchell
A 5th rate artist critiques a truly great artist proving his lack of class

By Stephen Pate – Joni Mitchell has been on the go publicity-wise lately in support of her new box set Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting To Be Danced (4 CD). Her interviews have included candid remarks about her likes and dislikes.

Ex-musician Dave Bidini takes taking exception to Joni Mitchell’s comments in his National Post rant An open letter to Joni Mitchell, from Dave Bidini

To Joni Mitchell, I say thank you for taking the time to talk to the press. We appreciate your challenges and your frank discussion. Thank you for a lifetime of art and dedication to your music and fans.

We have no words for the unkind, thoughtless Dave Bidini except to get a life and show some respect for your betters.

For Bidini, a musician who never made it past a small circle of Toronto rock cognoscenti, his article is a pathetic attempt to gain some notoriety for his latest writing project, an obscure book about Dave Keon – Keon and Me: My Search for the Lost Soul of the Leafs.

For the National Post it’s just another article for the often tasteless newspaper that tries to elevate itself by dragging down Joni Mitchell. Last year the NP called her a female Don Cherry. How tasteless and inappropriate is that?

I read Bidini’s article and I had to shake me head. Who is this pompous guy with more opinions than insight? He was member of the Canadian cult rock band the Rheostatics.

Not to say the Rheostatics were not a decent indie/cult band but what has Mr. Bidini done that approximates any one of Joni Mitchell’s songs, albums or other accomplishments?

Other than writing tasteless articles about one of the greatest Canadian artists of the last century, I suggest Mr. Bidini has done nothing of real note, like most of us mortals.

Joni Mitchell (Credit: Joni Mitchell)

Check that thought if you think me a rabid fan of Joni Mitchell. I admire her and some of her songs but she is next to the inner circle of artists I listen to constantly.

I know two things about Joni Mitchell. One, Joni Mitchell is a great artist who transcends the label “Canadian”. She is a great artist on the world stage in the same class as Leonard Cohen who also just happens to be Canadian.

Two, Joni Mitchell is a person living with a degenerative neuromuscular disability called Post-Polio Syndrome which makes her life a living hell on a daily basis. She rarely talks about it but I know PPS rules her life. Post polio makes her weak, tired, in pain, cranky, cold intolerant, and causes some cognitive shifts. PPS becomes her everyday cross to bear. She also has some other problems that make her skin feel like its crawling and affect her sleep.

With post polio, you never know if today is going to be a good day or bad day, or if things will turn worse by lunch time.  As a person with post polio gets older, the condition worsens.

Suffice it to say, Joni Mitchell is soldiering on in her life, a solitary life that she lives with dignity. And when she gets in front of the media, who are generally disability bigots, she says things probably more bluntly than most.  I don’t even know if what she says is true, correct or fair. It’s just Joni Mitchell unvarnished.

She summed up her life recently “Music is over for me, pretty much. I can’t sing: I don’t want to. I want to paint, and I want to write. I can’t tour, I can’t travel, I’m sick; I can fly two flights a year. I’m old. You have to know when to give up.”  Uncut

Joni Mitchell (Photo credit Q)

Bob Dylan thinks journalists are jerks and has pulled their collective chains for 50 years. “Something is happening and you don’t know what it is,” Dylan sang in the 1960’s. Being a journalist, I know plenty of uncool journalists who will fit Dylan’s description.

If Dylan takes a stripe off someone, that’s OK. He’s a guy and respected artist which leads me to conclude the first problem for Joni Mitchell and the press is misogyny. The sexist press has a different standard for judging men and women.

The media are totally bigoted towards people with disabilities and have little understanding of the issues and the need for accommodation.

Anyone who understood Joni Mitchell would have done a background check before the interview, determined the pathology of Post-Polio Syndrome and accommodated that in the interview.

She is not going to ask for the accommodation. Joni Mitchell is the artist not a beggar but the journalist should enter into the interview with that knowledge and attitude.

Of course, Mr. Bidini just wants some notoriety so he ignores the disability and takes cheap shots when he chides Joni Mitchell “Oh, Joni Mitchell. The things you say; I don’t know why you say them. You’ve been saying them for a while now: mean things, harsh things, angry, pretentious, unfeeling things.” (National Post)

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By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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