Both Sides Now: Joni Mitchell Blasts Hometown, Deep South as 'Bigoted' — After Wearing Blackface

Lank-haired, hatchet-faced Canadian songstress Joni Mitchell threw a tantrum last week.

Her hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, wants to build a museum in her honor (seemingly oblivious to the irony, considering Mitchell’s quoted-to-death lyrics…)

Mitchell wants them to drop the idea:

There aren’t enough people [in Saskatoon] who know what I do. (…)

I feel that it’s very isolated, very unworldly, and doesn’t grasp the idea of honor. (…)

Saskatoon has always been an extremely bigoted community. It’s like the deep south, and the museum was one thing I thought would be beneficial for people. (…)

People don’t get me there. They don’t get my ideas. They just look at me like I’m famous. That’s a minor part of it.

The mayor of Saskatoon responded with sanguine diplomacy to these insults.

Some Canadians, on the other hand…


Joni Mitchell, right, dressed as a black pimp at a California party, 1976. © Henry Diltz/Corbis

Saskatchewan resident Kate McMillan duly posted on this dustup at her blog SmallDeadAnimals — a post that drew a couple of… interesting comments:

“You might, like me, come to think you love Joni, not the musician but the human being, only to be terribly disappointed when you start to learn about all the racism and cultural appropriation perpetuated by her on her later albums–and in her everyday behavior, too. I mean really, Joni, REALLY?!

Weller glosses over this latter point with a “well, it was a different time…people just did that stuff”…but, no. I can not accept that “people” just [see photo above] dressed up in blackface as their “inner black person, a pimp named Claude” (while also claiming to be socially colorblind, no less! ARGH!) to go to parties and whatnot and it was totally cool. In the ’60′s–’80′s?! Maybe in the 1860′s and ’80′s. Harumph”

Then there’s this:

Lott discussed one moment in particular when Mitchell performed for Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, the promising African-American boxer who was convicted of murder. During the performance, held at Carter’s prison, Mitchell was booed off stage because the black prisoners thought her music was a ‘whitewashed version’ of jazz and blues, he said. Out of anger, Mitchell publicly called Carter the N-word.

That was not the first time Mitchell was controversial regarding black culture, Lott said. On the cover of her 1977 album, ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter,’ Mitchell appears in blackface drag.

Lott explained that Mitchell’s fantasy of being a black man was apparent in both her music and the relationships she had with men. Having a relationship with a black man came satisfyingly close to being one, Lott said.

‘Joni thought she inhibited blackness,’ Lott said. ‘That’s why she didn’t see a problem with her wearing blackface or using the N-word.’

Here’s the thing:

I don’t have a lot of fond memories of my hometown, either.

And I share Mitchell’s (apparent) disdain for Bob Dylan and First World feminists and “free love,” which she rightly calls “a ruse for guys” to “get laid.”

I applaud her for giving her baby up for adoption when when she got pregnant at nineteen.

(Although I presume Mitchell would growl something about “having no choice.”)

(Also? Am I alone in my disappointment that the father of that child didn’t turn out to be one of Mitchell’s fellow coffeehouse performers like Neil Young or Leonard Cohen? Can you imagine the voice on that kid?)

But her idiotic “cue-the-banjos,” ,Deep South” boogieman is deplorable, although typical of the 1960s/70s era liberal she is.

Not that her take on that history is terribly sound…

In the clip below, Joni Mitchell claims she watched Woodstock on TV the weekend it went on (without her).

That’s impossible: the concert wasn’t aired live.

Such things simply didn’t happen in those days. The technology didn’t exist to broadcast such a sprawling event, the logistics would have been a few notches below “moon landing,” and frankly, the networks’ middle class viewership would’ve had no interest in such a program.

But those Baby Boomers, huh?

Always inserting themselves into history, twisting it so that they are simultaneously its victims and its stars.