Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell’s influence on popular music has endured for five decades and touched virtually every musical genre in one way or another since her debut as a folk artist in her native Canada. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an eight-time Grammy honoree, Mitchell’s legendary catalog includes such songs as “Both Sides, Now,” “Help Me,” “Free Man in Paris” and “Big Yellow Taxi,” among many others
On April 16th, 2000, TNT aired a 90-minute tribute concert special hosted by actress Ashley Judd, with such Mitchell disciples as Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and k.d. lang, in addition to Tony Bennett, Cyndi Lauper, Elton John, Diana Krall and more. Even current presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton pays homage via a taped piece in which she explains that her daughter with President Bill Clinton takes her name from Mitchell’s tune, “Chelsea Morning.”
The special, recorded at New York’s Hammersmith Ballroom ten days earlier, opens with Judd’s country superstar sister, Wynonna, rocking the stage with Mitchell’s fellow Canadian Bryan Adams on a revved-up version of “Raised on Robbery,” from the landmark 1974 album, Court and Spark. As the pair sing, Judd gets playful with Adams – even giving his backside a pinch as they walk off stage after their performance. Mitchell can be seen smiling and clapping along in the audience. Wynonna later returns to perform a twangy, solo acoustic version of “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio,” which is well-suited for her considering its references to country music and the Carter Family’s “Wildwood Flower.” She even embellishes the tune with some very Joni-esque vocals.
Bonus for country-music trivia buffs: the song on the flipside of Mitchell’s original 1972 “You Turn Me On (I’m a Radio)” single was “Urge for Going,” which had been the first of her songs ever recorded by another artist when country star George Hamilton IV cut it in 1967. In 1982, Gail Davies reached Number 17 on the country chart with “You Turn Me On (I’m a Radio).” The same year this special aired (and Mitchell pretty much retired from performing live), Judd recorded Mitchell’s “Help Me” for her New Day Dawning album. It also appears on Judd’s live Her Story: Scenes From a Lifetime collection, released in 2005.
Late last month, news broke that Mitchell, 71, had been hospitalized in Los Angeles after being found unconscious in her home. Her most recent album, Shine, was released in 2007.