Joni Mitchell Speaking About Meeting Jimi Hendrix

For the next few months I am going to periodically offer commentary on video clips by famous artists on what it was like to meet Jimi Hendrix and what he meant to them. You can find most of these clips easily enough on YouTube, but there are special ones I want to highlight here at my website because of the special insights they give us into the creative process. Great artists speaking about other great artists provides us with unguarded insights into the life of the creative spirit.
 
Joni Mitchell

Cover of Joni Mitchell

Below is the first clip I want to offer. It starts out with a Joni Mitchell interview and ends with a weird video rendition of “Voodoo Chile.” Note how “Mitch” appears to know Italian. That’s impressive as hell.

Joni and Jimi were both on the rise in the late 1960s when they met. We all know how much Jimi revered the Beatles and Bob Dylan. It’s likely he respected a lot of the other innovators of that era as well. And there were many. Certainly by the time Jimi and Joni met, it was clear that Joni’s ability to mix complex melodies with real poetry (not just lyrics) was worthy of Hendrix’s attention.

Joni says that Jimi recorded her concert using a big reel-to-reel tape recorder and then messed around with the recording back at the hotel when he was hanging out with her. She also tells the interviewer that Hendrix confided that night that he was tired of the act he had made his name with — his guitar theatrics and the sexual way he played the guitar. He wanted to change. What Joni says about the change he wanted is interesting.

She also offers an important insight for all committed artists — poets, musicians, painters, novelists, etc. Moving from one message, one genre, or one persona, to another is part of the artist’s journey — otherwise “you’ll die inside.” Still, making that change can be quite difficult.

It sounds like Joni got some priceless revelations out of the great left-handed genius. Pay close attention to what she intimates about how he wanted to change. Other posts I plan to make bring up the same issue. Some people wonder whether making the changes he wanted to make might have saved Jimi.

What’s really important in this insight is that it comes from none other than Joni Mitchell, a woman who made so many dramatic changes in her art over the years that critics and fans alike often felt left behind. She started out as a folkie, just mimicking others of the era, but lit the sky on fire with her own personal song writing as the 1960s began to rush headlong toward a visionary future. Through the 1970s and 1980s she would shift to jazz in a huge way, and then to rock, and then, finally, into a realm that we can only call “Joni Music.”

English: Jimi Hendrix performs for Dutch telev...

Jimi Hendrix performs for Dutch television show Hoepla in 1967. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people also wonder if anything happened between the two of them that night in the early spring of 1968. In his journal, Jimi wrote, “Went down to little club to see Joni, fantastic girl with heaven words.” Joni says they were staying at the same hotel. But according to other sources, they went to a party later that night and were seen hanging out together. The next morning they were spotted kissing each other goodbye — presumably in the hotel lobby.

Honestly, in this interview, it looks like it all stayed platonic — or she’s a damn good poker player. That said, what dyed in the wool male growing up in the late ’60s or the 1970s didn’t fantasize about going to bed with Joni Mitchell? I know I did. I’ve got a short story in the works about that very subject. If you hunt for it, you can actually find pieces of it online.

Jimi and Joni were the two most gifted American artists of that era (maybe Dylan can be slid in there, too, for some people). It’s a real treat to watch Joni’s face as she speaks about her friendship with the guitar legend, and to listen to the cadence of her words and the tone of her voice. Her radiance and beauty really shine through in this very short clip. If you aren’t already in love with her, you very likely will be once you watch this clip.

Lastly, note how some of the things she starts to say never fully evolve, and that that she kind of gets confusing as she tries to explain Jimi.

She was 24 to Jimi’s 25. Two weeks after they met in Ottawa, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. They would meet up again at an impromptu memorial jam session in NYC that included Buddy Guy, Al Kooper, BB King, and Ted Nugent.

This is the first in a series of about 10 special clips I’ve found online where great artists give their intimate thoughts on Jimi Hendrix. I wrote my novel, Beyond the Will of God, for many reasons. The main one, though, was to point to the deep level of creativity that music from that era offers us — creativity not just from musicians but from those who listen, dance, and just appreciate the soul of the amazing sounds that rose up in those early days of real artistic freedom and unbridled transcendence — days we seem, sadly,  to have left behind.

Stay tuned for more.

About davidbiddle

David Biddle is the author of the psychedelic novel, "Beyond the Will of God," and two collections of short stories, "Implosions of America" & "Trying to Care." He has been writing professionally for over 30 years and is a columnist with both TalkingWriting.com and KotoriMagazine.com.

He is currently at work on the a new novel, "Beautiful Morning Blues," the first in a connected series of three books about sex, love, and family in the fringe suburbs of a large eastern city called Philadelphia.

Comments

  1. Joe Korona says:

    Howdy David: Just happened upon this article of yours. I’m a Hendrix appreciator myself, and your approach to interviewing musicians who had contact with Jimi is not only intriguing, but fills in necessary gap in his music- & personal bios. If you could send some links or access-points where I might find other articles you’ve written of “Jimi & Others”,
    I’d appreciate it. Thanks again for this article. Peace, Joe Korona, Missoula Montana USA

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