Sunday’s Newport Folk Festival performance by Joni Mitchell, a renowned Canadian singer-songwriter and one of the most influential artists of the 1960s and ’70s, was a surprise for an audience in Rhode Island.
Since suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015, Mitchell has stayed mainly out of the public eye. After a brief appearance at the Kennedy Center Honors in December, she made a televised appearance at the Grammys and was honored at the MusiCares Extravaganza in April, a Grammy-affiliated charity gala, as she healed.
Although she was dressed in a beret and sunglasses on Sunday, Mitchell played some of her most well-known songs, including “Carey,” “Big Yellow Taxi, and “Both Sides Now.
At one point during “Just Like This Train,” Mitchell draped an electric guitar over her shoulder and took a lengthy solo while the crowd roared and shouted.
Brandi Carlile, who sang backup for Mitchell at the Newport Folk Fest, remarked in a tweet that “she returned to the Newport Folk Fest stage after 53 years and I will never forget sitting next to her while she halted this old world for a minute.”
Mitchell, she said, had emerged from the storm “singing like a prophet” after “seeing at life from so many angles.”
Since her last public appearances, Mitchell has not been able to dodge the headlines.
Mitchell and Neil Young boycotted Spotify in January because of Spotify’s role in promoting falsehoods about the Covid-19 vaccination.
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People who promote falsehoods are putting lives at risk, Mitchell wrote of the corporation at the time. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this topic,” she said.
Several musicians, including Brandi Carlile, sang alongside Mitchell on Sunday. “This will never leave me. Carlile later remarked on Twitter, “I can’t even watch it without the emotions coming back.” “I’m sorry,” I beg of you.
On “A Case of You,” Mitchell and Carlile sung the song from the classic “Blue” album, which came out more than 50 years ago. Mitchell sang:
Darling, I could drink a whole case of you!
In addition, I’d be able to keep walking.
I’d still be able to walk.
The crowd erupted in applause.