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Many musicians would cite family, friends, radio, folk clubs or house parties in remembering their first introductions to Joni Mitchell’s music. Operatic soprano Measha Bruggergosman, however, recalls first hearing Mitchell songs as a teen — practising basketball drills at her junior high school in New Brunswick.
“I kept thinking, ‘I’m not quite sure that basketball and Joni Mitchell go together,” Bruggergosman laughs. “My gym teacher used to play Joni’s songs while we were in gym class. It certainly showed me the versatility of her music.”
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The ‘sports’ angle isn’t totally far-fetched: After all, Mitchell — who’s being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame — did pen a shout-out to the Maple Leafs hockey club in her 1974 Court & Spark classic Raised On Robbery.
“Plus, growing up in the Maritimes, Joni was in keeping with the acoustic esthetic of the area’s music culture, because we have a lot of singer-songwriters, a lot of guitar and travelling minstrel people there,” adds Bruggergosman, who will be honouring the iconic singer, songwriter, environmentalist and accomplished painter with a rendition of Both Sides Now, one of five Mitchell songs being inducted at the fourth annual gala event Sunday night at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Two other Mitchell classics — Woodstock and Help Me — will be respectively performed by James Taylor, an old flame of Mitchell’s, and Chaka Khan (accompanied by Herbie Hancock), who first sang backup on Mitchell’s 1977 album Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter.
From the mid-1960s onward, Mitchell (born Roberta Joan Anderson) complemented her poetic, observational and oft-confessional lyrics prose with genre-defying folk, pop, rock and jazz arrangements, composed mainly on guitar or piano. Not only would she earn fame in her own right, many of Mitchell’s songs would become hits for the likes of Judy Collins, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Counting Crows and even Nazareth.
There’s also word that the 63-year-old has allied with the Alberta Ballet Company for a production based on her song The Fiddle and The Drum.
Other notable inductees include David Clayton-Thomas for his Blood, Sweat & Tears composition Spinning Wheel, Sylvia Fricker (Tyson) for You Were On My Mind and tributes to Quebec icon Jean-Pierre Ferland and country music legend Wilf Carter.
CBC Radio One and Two will air highlights on Monday and CBC-TV will have an hour-long segment on March 5. For more info, including a complete list of performers and inductees, visit www.cansong.ca.