The supernaturally gifted Joni Mitchell stole her own tribute show tonight, the PBS Library of Congress Gershwin Prize.
There are plenty of stars on this show including Herbie Hancock, James Taylor, Annie Lennox, Cyndi Lauper, Ledisi, the omnipresent Brandi Carlile, Diana Krall, Graham Nash and so on. And they are all excellent, performing Joni’s songs. Star band leader Greg Phillinganes as lined up an A list band of jazz musicians who bring light and texture to the set list.
But who steals the show? Why, Joni, of course! Her performance of the Gershwins’ “Summertime” outstrips everything else on the bill. Her voice, as Laura Nyro once wrote, is “a choir of carousels.” After all of her health struggles, the fact that Mitchell is walking and talking is a miracle. But listen to her sing now, it’s like the old Joni. Amazing and wonderful.
This is a show not to be missed on PBS. Check your listings.
Previous recipients of the Gershwin Award are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo the late Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Garth Brooks, and Lionel Richie. My vote for next honoree is Carly Simon. Her songs fit the Gershwin bill to a tee.
Here’s “Summertime.” Listen to Philliganes’ piano, it’s sublime.
PS Sitting behind Joni, notably, is director Cameron Crowe. He recently announced he’s writing and directing her biopic. He’s been a great friend to Joni and vice versa for decades. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with!