Joni Mitchell is not perfect, but she is perhaps our best example of a singer-songwriter with a rock ‘n’ roll heart.
She created music, from the start, that challenged expectations, became hits, fearlessly exposed her self (Rolling Stone mocked her sex life, famously and appallingly), and explored relentlessly the world outside herself, which she hoped to inhabit gracefully.
To put it bluntly, if she had had balls she would have put them forward in jeopardy to show that she was serious about her place in the world. The music may have been pretty at times, but the emotions were often as raw as anything else. And usually more so.
As seems to happen often with songwriters I admire, it is a cover that helps me explain Joni Mitchell. That would be Annie Ross’s Twisted.
And a cover of one of her songs, Clouds, that takes it just a bit farther.