The 4-H motto from my youth was "To make the best better." I never quite understood what that meant. Well, yes, I did, sort of, but ...
I thought of that when I was looking at some of the older videos of Joni Mitchell this past week. Most of us who are, shall we say, of age ... remember Joni Mitchell as one of the quintessential voices of the 60s.
Over the years I have enjoyed a lot of artists. But I have never been as fascinated by any one particular artist more than Joni Mitchell.
I confess I don't know particulars - don't care really - but Joni Mitchell seems to have slipped in and out of what she calls self imposed exiles. I think I have read she did this to find some privacy and reconnect with people and feelings that are important. I would assume this is not uncommon for creative people.
She is an accomplished painter and, again, I assume she has used her time out of the spotlight to paint. This is a self portrait she did for her album Both Sides Now. It is one of my favorite works - period. I love the feeling this painting conveys and its irreverence. I mean, my God, no smoking in a bar?
Though as much as I love Joni Mitchell's early work, I am even more captivated by her more recent work. In 1998 she performed a concert on a small stage on a Warner Brothers lot in Los Angeles. This performance is available on a DVD entitled Painting with Words and Music.
My favorite song from that performance is a jazzy version of her Big Yellow Taxi. She even does a perfect Bob Dylan impersonation.
More recently I heard Joni Mitchell do a new version of Both Sides Now. Unlike the original version, the new rendition is very slow and turns the classic into a jazz ballad that is truly unforgettable.
Joni Mitchell has finally made me realize what the 4-H motto means. She truly does make the best better. Much, much better.
Below is the Big Yellow Taxi as performed in 1998 by Joni Mitchell.