LAS VEGAS – A few years ago, Joni Mitchell couldn’t walk or talk, stricken by a brain aneurysm that damaged her motor skills.
On Friday night, Michelle, 78, her blue eyes twinkling, leaned into Brandi Carlyle’s gold microphone and happily sang along to “Big Yellow Taxi.” Surrounded by Carlyle, John Batiste, Yola, Lauren Daigle, and many other artists who received the acclaimed Canadian songwriter as the Musketeers Person of the Year, Mitchell enjoys music with an easy smile, his omnipresent physical therapist. – Singlong who joined in – on his behalf.
Mitchell’s participation in the 1970 hit that woven environmentalism and politics into frisky guitar strums was a celebratory moment inside the pre-Grammy Awards event at the MGM Grand, experienced by audiences who spent more than three hours on the show. Time was short.
But those who remained were rewarded with this piece of musical magic, as well as a few lines from “The Circle Game” that Mitchell was heard sharing.
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MusiCares is the foundation Recording Academy, which runs the Grammy Awards, and provides health and human services support to the music community. Videos of musicians aided by MusiCares – including some who have benefited from $37 million supplied in COVID-19 relief – played overnight, underscoring the importance of its outreach.
The annual event – which made a virtual pandemic-related detour in 2021 – was curated this year by music directors Carlyle and Batiste.
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On the red carpet before the show, Carlyle, who sang to her idol at December’s Kennedy Center Honors, told USA Today that her “number one priority” was Michelle.
Carlyle said, “What would he be proud of? What would make him laugh? I wanted to help him realize how relevant he is to many generations. Everyone wants to sing in front of Johnny and no one wants to sing in front of Johnny. doesn’t want to sing in front,” said Carlyle. A knowing smile.
with an eclectic lineup that included Angelique Kidjo (“If”); St. Vincent (“Court and Spark”); Dave Grohl’s 15-year-old daughter, Violet (“Help Me”); Chloe Bailey (“Chelsea Morning”); and Pentatonix (a mashup of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and Mitchell’s “Raised on Robbery”), Carlyle and Batiste were successful in demonstrating the wide reach of Mitchell’s auditory poetry.
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Video messages praising the marquee names long associated with Michelle – Elton John, Lionel Richie, Meryl Streep, Neil Young – were played across video screens hanging throughout the ballroom. Mitchell’s lifelong love and muse, Graham Nash also appeared virtually from a tour stop in Nashville and presented “Joan” with a tender version of “A Case of You”, as he called her.
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Before the show, Michelle spoke to USA TODAY about the extraordinary few months she had experienced with Kennedy Center Honors and MusiCares accolades.
“It’s interesting that this is happening — and it took 50 years to get there,” Mitchell said.
So what does she attribute to this sudden interest in her career?
“Maybe people are getting deeper.”
Here are some musical highlights from the event.
John Legend, “River”: R&B singer-pianists don’t always ignite a room with their presence, but their deeply felt version of “River” is performed on a rotating stage in the middle of the room, tinged with true emotion. does. His voice was deep and resonant, Legend counteracting his strong vocals with the delicate beats of “Jingle Bells”, which are in the sad song.
Cindy Lauper, “Magdalene Laundries”: The song, taken from Mitchell’s 1994 album, “Turbulent Indigo,” said Lauper, is currently relevant as women still struggle for equal rights. Lauper, dressed in a white hooded jacket with matching glasses and pink frosted lipstick, her voice surprisingly didn’t subside, both belted and softly submerged. She sang with her eyes closed, ignoring the giant teleprompter in the back of the room, and gave Michelle a kiss at the end of the song. “You left footprints in the sand for me to follow,” said Lauper.
Billy Porter, “Both Sides Now”: The elegant Porter took a moment to tell her, “We’re all better artists because of the lines you’ve dared to cross,” before moving on to one of Michelle’s most beloved songs. His eyes gleamed deeply, Porter then engaged in a master class of song interpretation. He brought out the melancholy and cautious hope of the ballad with loud phrasing and emotional insight, and the execution of the last line was absolutely devastating. About halfway through the show, Porter’s performance earned her the first cheer of the night. Some of us will stand still.
Carlyle and Stephen Stills: On the red carpet, Stills told USA Today she was “proud” of Michelle’s resilience. “She’s been brave. We were really worried about her (after the 2015 aneurysm) and now she’s here and God bless her.” There was no vocals from Stills on stage, an electrifying entrance in the middle of a slow-paced version of Carlyle’s “Woodstock”. Playing his guitar, Stills passed out screaming at the instrument, while Carlyle grabbed a guitar to join him. Carlyle is always a joy to watch, and the moment he instinctively leaned his head on Stills’ shoulder was one of unbridled joy.
Mickey Guyton and Allison Russell, “For Free”: It was another headline moment for the doe-eyed Gaiton, who impressed with his Super Bowl national anthem in February. The song, an album track from Michelle’s third album, 1970’s “Ladies of the Canyon”, proved to be a perfect pairing for the pair’s accompaniment vocals. A little soul from a pedal steel guitar and a tone of country combined for a rooted melodious beauty.
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