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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Joni Mitchell and Neil Young

neil & joni
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":
Joni Mitchell:
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

Joni Mitchell and Neil Young
2012 Grammy Event
Los Angeles, CA - Feb 11, 2012

More on other artists who have worked with Neil Young.


At 11/17/2009 10:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joni and Neil are truly (inter)national treasures. Joni might be the only musician (other than Dylan) who holds a candle to Neil as a singer songwriter. She's also surely one the most underrated musicians in terms of receiving widespread recognition for her excellence. But Joni and Neil are a great pair.

At 11/17/2009 01:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something I´ve always asked myself is (and it might be a stupid question, but it´s not mentioned anywhere in "Shakey") where they ever in some sort of relationship like Dylan and Baez or where they "just" friends. I´d find the latter somewhat sweet, because platonic relationships seem to be a rarity in Rock´n´Roll.

- M.

At 11/17/2009 03:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really love the portrait Joni did of Neil - captures him so well but so minimally. As a very amateur portrait artist myself (I usually work from photos)I`ve never dared paint a picture of Neil for fear of messing it up!

Neil and Joni singing Helpless on The last Waltz was just amazing.

Jill (keep on blogging!)

At 11/17/2009 06:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Compare the photo of Neil in the
Neil Young News square,to the one
with Joni Mitchell just below it on
this page. Same profile but years apart. Interesting.

But the Joni print of Neil just
looks like a Planet of the Apes
poster to me. I know, it's just
a cartoonish character of Neil and
I do like it, but does anyone else
see the ape thing too?

Did Neil write "Alley-OOP"?

At 11/17/2009 08:10:00 PM, Blogger D.I. Kertis said...

Actually, I can see the "ape thing" as well. You can see it in any of us if you look closely enough. It's only natural, being that we evolved from them.

At 11/17/2009 08:10:00 PM, Blogger D.I. Kertis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/17/2009 09:36:00 PM, Blogger Sigma6 said...

Anon 11/17/2009 02:39:00 PM

I believe it does say in Shakey somewhere they had a brief relationship. Can't tell you where though.

At 11/17/2009 10:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, so i saw a very interesting Archives Guy post on the Rust List today. Apparently ITUNES is selling the Cinnamon Girl track from Fillmore, that was recently released as a BluRay Live download. Archives Guy has stated, unequivocally, that BluRay downloads would NEVER be available for purchase.

so what is going on here? Looks like Neil is the capitalist pig he always dreamed himself to be.

what's this mean for me: It means i am boycotted ALL future Neil purchases (but i will buy a Neil concert ticket). I'm DONE spending money on his albums etc.

In a message dated 11/17/2009 1:06:13 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
nyv1archive@... writes:

This track is also available now on iTunes.

Don't worry NYA BD owners, you still are the only ones who get to have
this as high quality audio. The iTunes and Amazon download is just a wimpy
MP3 file.

> Here's the link:


At 11/17/2009 10:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, i'm actually happy about this. I just bought the Archives CD edition. does this mean all the Bluray dwnlds will be available.

two words - bring it!!!

archives guy - care to comment?

At 11/17/2009 10:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wait a second. this cut was not released on Fillmore East, but is now an MP3 on ITUNES?

WTF is up with that?

is this pure marketing chaos?

At 11/18/2009 12:14:00 AM, Blogger Sigma6 said...

While BD-Live is a great feature and I love my copy of the Archives, I just think the Archives should contain everything that is available as of release. I can't quite remember the quote, but Neil did say it will include everything! Holding things back that could go on the Archives just to release them later via BD-Live is strange to me. Just like leaving tracks on the official albums out of the Archives just doesn't make sense! I would love to know the reasoning.

At 11/18/2009 07:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Going back to the whole question of whether they were ever in a relationship or not, I always understood the case to be that Neil was the only one out of CSNY that Joni Mitchell didn't have a relationship with (maybe cos they were already good friends?)

I know her most famous long term relationship from the time was with Graham Nash (it inspired his songs "Our House" and "Simple Man") and she was later also with Jackson Browne.

Like I said I can't ever recall of hearing of her being with Neil but I may be wrong.


At 2/15/2012 12:11:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

It was heartwarming for me to see Neil and Joni together in this picture, they are my two favorites. Joni's words, voice and musicianship are definitely in a class with Neil’s.

I have a burlap wall hanging with Joni’s portrait of Neil on it, one of my favorite possessions. I had it for a long time before I realized it was a portrait by Joni, which made it all the more cool. I used to spend a lot of time examining it with my hand over one or the other eye, which turns it into almost two completely different things. I narrowed it down to anger and mysticism, but that's just me. In any event, like Neil himself it oozes feeling. It also reminds me of Picasso's Don Quixote- slashes of lines and minimalist composition that creates something unmistakable, and artless.

On another note, I was shocked, SHOCKED, to find out that Neil is “the capitalist pig he always dreamed himself to be”. Really, I didn’t know this.

A Friend Of Yours

At 10/05/2017 11:42:00 PM, Blogger ecce homo said...

Note there is a song called Sweet Joni Neil performed with Stray Gators at the Civic Auditorium in Bakersfield, the date is 3-11-73. He calls her "Sweet Joni from Saskatoon". Adds another dimension to the complexity of their relationship in song.


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