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Joni Mitchell is onstage at a clear podium. spreading her arms and smiling. Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, in red jacket, claps for her. The Gershwin Medal is visible in the backdroup.
Joni Mitchell is awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song on March 1. (Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)

The Laureate and National Ambassador on Joni Mitchell, Winner of the Gershwin Prize

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Joni Mitchell: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song will broadcast on PBS tonight, March 31, 2023, at 9/8C. The event can be viewed afterwards at the PBS Gershwin Prize website and on the PBS app.

U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Meg Medina attended the concert to celebrate this year’s recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Joni Mitchell. At the concert, a number of music legends, including James Taylor, Annie Lennox, and Herbie Hancock, performed Mitchell’s songs. Medina and Limón shared their impressions and sneak previews:

Ada Limón on Mitchell as a source of childhood inspiration:

I’ve been listening to Joni Mitchell since I was just six years old. I remember staring at the liner notes to Court and Spark and asking what the words “unfettered” (“Free Man in Paris”) and “idiomatic” (“Twisted”) meant. I had whole entire worlds in my mind when I listened to her songs back then, and it hasn’t changed for me now. I loved listening to each artist perform their personalized version of Mitchell’s song and bearing witness to how her music changed them… [E]veryone I know has their own relationship with Joni Mitchell’s music. It’s deeply personal. And the concert felt that way to me, deeply personal.

Ada Limón in a black outfit (left) shakes hands with Joni Mitchell, in a blue velvet outfit (right)
Ada Limón Shakes Hands with Joni Mitchell in the Library of Congress Whittall Pavilion on March 2. (Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)


Meg Medina on visiting the venue, the DAR Constitution Hall:

My own background has nothing to do with genealogy from the American Revolution, so I honestly did not know what to expect. But I’m happy to report that the building was very beautiful, and the auditorium was filled with a cross section of Washingtonians in the spirit of supporting our music legends.

Why watch the broadcast?

Limón: If you love Joni Mitchell, you know that there’s no one that can quite do what she does. To honor her this way with such powerful performances felt like not just a recognition of her work, but a recognition of her influence on all of us. I know my poems would not be what they are without Joni Mitchell. I still listen to her continuously. This concert holds her up the way she should be held up.

Medina: The range of artists who paid Joni Mitchell tribute was astounding. I could have listened for hours longer than what was recorded! [The concert] offers a rare but much-appreciated space where we can come together across the political aisle to celebrate our most gifted artists.

Favorite parts of the concert (other than Joni Mitchell, of course):

Limón: I was so in awe of Annie Lennox and Cyndi Lauper. As a young woman, I was always searching for women artists who made their own path, and Lennox and Lauper topped the list. Watching them perform Mitchell’s songs with such grace and power was truly moving. Everyone was a standout to me because the concert showcased how idiosyncratic Mitchell is in her songwriting and musical genius. No one can perform a Michell song the same way, because she is a singular artist. I have also loved Brandi Carlisle for years and she hosted and performed with such true generosity you could feel the love and admiration (not to mention, she’s one of the best singers of our time!).

Annie Lennox, in a sparking black jacket, sings into the microphone
Annie Lennox performs in honor of Joni Mitchell at the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize concert on March 1. (Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)


Medina: Annie Lennox singing “Both Sides Now.” It was such an earnest and full-throated performance. I was also especially fond of Ledisi and Herbie Hancock’s rendition of “The River,” a song I wasn’t very familiar with. Her voice was so pure and beautiful. I thought about it for a long while afterward.

Herbie Hancock (dark suit), seated at the piano, accompanies singer Ledisi (gold and green dress) on stage
Herbie Hancock and Ledisi perform in honor of Joni Mitchell at the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize concert on March 1. (Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)


On the value of celebrating this country’s legacy through music:

Medina: The artists who are honored with the Gershwin Prize are American treasures, and their music is as rich and varied as the people who make up our nation. These talented visionaries have not only enriched us with hours of enjoyment, but they’ve also given us ways to understand one another and connect as people. They’ve served as chroniclers of our time, as critics of our failings, and as spirit-lifters when we’ve needed them most.

Limón: Poetry, like music, is a way of recognizing the full spectrum of human emotion. We celebrate each other through music and poetry, we recognize our suffering through music and poetry, and we acknowledge our truths. It’s not about providing a record or a report, but about somehow acknowledging the challenges and beauty of the human experience. To celebrate the arts is to celebrate our humanity and what connects us to one another.

We hope you enjoy this rich celebration of Mitchell’s musical legacy by catching Joni Mitchell: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song on PBS tonight, March 31, 2023, at 9/8C. Let us know your impressions!

Meg Medina, on the left, poses and smiles with Ada Limón, on the right.
Meg Medina (left) and Ada Limón (right) at the Gershwin concert. Image Courtesy of Meg Medina

Comments (8)

  1. I was at the Troubador and Judy Collins sang a song about “The Midway” and I knew that I had to hear more for myself!
    I bought all of Joni’s albums, and while others were still moved by the British invasion, and so many more songs of our era, I knew that Joni would somehow keep evolving and she did it so well . RW

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  6. Loved the Modern Marvels episode about the Library of Congress. Thought I might check out the website as my daughter will be visiting D.C with her school group. Loved the LOC article on Joni Mitchell. Nice there was a link to the PBS broadcast on her Gershwin Award. The LOC is a great source of pride for all Americans (especially during these trying times). I think if more people could visit the LOC, in person or virtually, it will inspire more unity in “Our Nation”.
    With Great Respect and Admiration

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