This half-hour video of Joni Mitchell is from a BBC special in 1970, when she was only 27, yet already a hugely accomplished singer/songwriter.
Why is she the best? It’s the combination of skills, one that not even Bob Dylan had. She could write fantastically complex and inventive songs (often about her loves ["My Old Man," in this video, is about Graham Nash], but with infinitely more panache than the minimally-talented Taylor Swift), her voice is absolutely gorgeous, with a huge range, and she could play guitar (she invented many of the open tunings that made her sound so distinctive), dulcimer, and piano. (She could also paint, and very well.) Bob Dylan, whom someone suggested as her male equivalent, could do one thing well: write songs. He couldn’t sing (his voice always irritates me), and his ability to play guitar is, well, limited.
Don’t get me wrong: Dylan was enormously talented as a songwriter, and perhaps the biggest influence on the music of the last five decades. But in terms of musical greatness, I think there are others who are superior.
Anyway, Mitchell demonstrates all her skills in this video, playing many of her great songs. The best, “California,” starts about 16:30.
It’s so sad what’s become of Mitchell lately; I don’t even want to talk about it.