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Joni Mitchell on Bob Dylan: 'He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake'

April 22, 2010 |  6:00 am

This morning, The Times published an interview with Joni Mitchell in which she makes a few incendiary comments about some of her musical peers. Mitchell was interviewed by writer Matt Diehl in conjunction with a series of shows by John Kelly, the renowned, Obie Award-winning actor/performance artist, who performs Mitchell's work at Renberg Theatre on Friday and Sunday.

Writes Diehl in his introduction: "Blessed with an elastic voice and androgynous features, Kelly is famed for his chameleonic ability to morph into well-known historical figures of either gender, from famous painters to first ladies. His performance as Mitchell, however, proves Kelly’s most enduring metamorphosis. It's downright eerie how he channels her so completely."

You should read the whole thing, of course, but as incentive, here are a few choice gems from the piece.

Mitchell on her early work:

My first four albums covered the usual youth problems -- looking for love in all the wrong places -- while the next five are basically about being in your 30s. Things start losing their profundity; in middle-late age, you enter a tragedian period, realizing that the human animal isn’t changing for the better. In a way, I think I entered straight into my tragedian period, as my work is set against the stupid, destructive way we live on this planet. Americans have decided to be stupid and shallow since 1980. Madonna is like Nero: She marks the turning point.

On Bob Dylan:

Bob is not authentic at all: He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I. As for my name, my parents wanted a boy, so they called me Robert John; when I came out a girl, they just added two letter “A's” to that. Then I married Chuck Mitchell; I wanted to keep my maiden name -- I had a bit of a following as Joni Anderson -- but he wouldn’t let me.

On her time with Jimi Hendrix:

Just before he died, Jimi Hendrix, his drummer [Mitch Mitchell] and I would sit up all night listening to tapes of our shows. Jimi was the sweetest guy: He made his reputation by setting his guitar on fire, but that eventually became repugnant to him. “I can’t stand to do that anymore,” he said, “but they’ve come to expect it. I’d like to just stand still like Miles.” Transitions aren’t easy. After I took a jazz band into the Grand Ole Opry, they never invited me back!

-- Randall Roberts

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