Sunday, November 25, 2007

Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

One test of the greatness of a singer-songwriter is whether and how successfully their catalogue is covered by other musicians.
By that token, Joni Mitchell is a goddess. But then we already knew that, didn't we?
As I have travelled around the jazz radio webcast dial in recent weeks, I have heard selections from Mitchell's extraordinary songbook covered by Judy Niemack, Cleo Laine and Diane Krall, among other great jazz vocalists, and practically wept at the beauty of Laine's cover of Joni’s "Both Sides Now."

All this in addition to A Tribute to Joni Mitchell, a new album featuring beautiful interpretations of Joni's songs by, among others, Elvis Costello ("Edith and the Kingpin") Sufjan Stevens ("Free Man in Paris"), Björk ("The Bojo Dance"), Prince ("A Case of You") and a drop-dead gorgeous take by Cassandra Wilson on "For the Roses."
These covers seem a far cry -- as does Mitchell herself -- from the squeaky folk recordings that the diva was making in the late 1960s. But I knew even then that she was destined to have an enormous influence on me -- as well as other musicians.

Thank you, Joni.

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