By Ray Bennett
When I lived in Los Angeles, Joni Mitchell was a regular at my watering hole of choice, Dan Tana’s restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Tana’s is famously relaxed about the big names that dine there, but given Mitchell’s iconic stature and perceived reputation as a prickly artist, it was a delight to find how easygoing and gregarious she is.
Which is not to say that the Canadian singer shrinks from speaking her mind as my friend and colleague, music writer Paul Sexton, reports in a great piece in today’s Guardian.
Paul has produced a radio documentary titled “Come in From the Cold: The Return of Joni Mitchell,” based on conversations between Mitchell and British songwriter Amanda Ghost, who is a close friend of hers.
The two-part show, which airs on BBC Radio 2 March 20 and 27 at 8:30 p.m. GMT, features songs from “Shine”, Mitchell’s first album of new material in a decade that includes her setting to music Kipling’s poem “If”. It is due out in the fall.
Mitchell talks about people and things past and present including her recent involvement in “The Fiddle and the Drum”, a ballet based on her songs and art produced by Canada’s Alberta Ballet Company in Canada.
Sexton confirms that Mitchell retains her personal warmth and fine distanced eye for bullshit: “Privately, she does a mean impersonation of Bob Dylan, too, delivered as a hazy drone. ‘I’m not considered a poet’, she says. ‘Dylan is, Jim Morrison is. In a way, that’s a good thing, because I don’t like poetry, for the most part. I’m with Nietzsche, ‘They muddy their waters that they might appear deep’.”