Joni Mitchell and Neil Young
Joni Mitchell & Neil Young
Photo from The Last Waltz, 1976
Joni Mitchell and Neil Young both hail from Canada, grew up musically in Toronto and later went on to become celebrated singer-songwriters around the world. Their musical intersections over the years have been both productive and fascinating.
From Joni Mitchell's introduction to the song "Circle Game" at the Royal Albert
Hall on 8/28/70 where she was playing a duet with James Taylor (on the album "You Can Close Your Eyes") as being inspired by Young's "Sugar Mountain":
In 1965 I was up in Canada and there was a friend of mine up there who, uh, had just left a rock 'n roll band in Winnipeg, Manitoba near where I come from on the prairies to become a folk singer a la Bob Dylan who was his hero at that time and uh at the same time that there were breaks in his life and he was going in a new and exciting direction, he had just newly turned 21 and that meant that in Winnipeg, he was no longer allowed into his favorite haunt which was kind of a teeny-bopper club and once you're over 21 you couldn't get back in there anymore, so he was really feeling terrible because his girlfriends, everybody that he wanted to hang out with, his band could still go there, you know.
So, one of the things that drove him to become a folk singer was that he couldn't play in this club anymore, 'cause he was over the hill. That was about the same time that Esquire magazine was doing pictures of girls in trash bins, like once you're over 21 you'd had it and everything, you know? There was strange philosophy going on at that time, so he wrote this song.
It was called, "Oh to live on Sugar Mountain" and it was a lament for his lost youth. And it went, "Oh to live on Sugar Mountain with the barkers and the colored balloons. You can't be 20 on Sugar Mountain though you're thinking that you're leaving there too soon, you're leaving there too soon." And I thought, you know, God if we get to 21 and there's nothing after that, it's a pretty bleak future and so I wrote a song for him and for myself, to just sort of give me some hope. It's called "The Circle Game.
On Joni Mitchell's album HEJIRA, Neil Young played on the harmonica on a couple of songs.
In The Band's final performance "Last Waltz" concert at the Winterland in San Francisco, Mitchell and Young sang together on the song "Helpless" making for one of the film's many highlights.
Portrait by Joni Mitchell
From Rolling Stone magazine, 1975
2012 Grammy Event
Los Angeles, CA - Feb 11, 2012
More on other artists who have worked with Neil Young.