A brain aneurysm that killed Joni Mitchell eight years ago briefly disabled her voice and movement.
On Wednesday, a renowned singer-songwriter sang while leaning against the curve of a grand piano with her right hand holding a golden microphone that matched her jauntily tilted hat.
In the otherwise motionless DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., George Gershwin’s “Summertime” reverberated as Mitchell used the intricacies of her velvety voice to sound both seductive and languid.
She didn’t pay attention to the teleprompter playing the song’s lyrics in the rear of the theatre; instead, she focused on the music and confidently performed the “Porgy and Bess” classic.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, Mitchell has returned.
The Gershwin Prize for Popular Music recipient for 2023, she gave a performance that culminated with a rendition of “The Circle Game” towards the end of a two-hour concert in her honour. Past nominees include Carole King, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Garth Brooks, Lionel Richie, and Gloria and Emilio Estefan.
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The Gershwin Award, which honours a living musician’s lifetime contribution to advancing the song form and is named for the famed songwriting duo George and Ira Gershwin, is the most recent in a string of honours bestowed to the 79-year-old Canadian superstar. In 2021, she received the Kennedy Center Honor, and in 2022, MusiCares honoured her Person of the Year.
A large group of Mitchell’s musical admirers, including Brandi Carlile, Annie Lennox, James Taylor, Cyndi Lauper, Marcus Mumford, Graham Nash, Diana Krall, Ledisi, Angelique Kidjo, and Herbie Hancock, commended her tenacity and iconic repertoire on Wednesday.
Mitchell added as she accepted her prize, “So many people I care about are here today. “Old and new friends. It’s a little exciting.
The invitation-only concert, which was attended by members of Congress, supporters of the Library of Congress, and PBS guests, will appear on PBS and PBS.org on March 31 at 9 p.m. ET.