Joni MitchellI consoled myself today with a box set of Joni Mitchell’s songs: The Studio Albums, 1968-1979. They are all in there: Both Sides Now, Big Yellow Taxi, Woodstock …  – ten albums altogether, from the earliest folk, through the seminal Blue to the jazz period. The twentieth century was surely the century of the American singer/songer-writer (Mitchell is Canadian). Nowadays, Mitchell would like to consider herself first and foremost as an artist (painter), she is nevertheless a towering figure in a pantheon that would include Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen, to name just a few. I hadn’t realised just how prolific she had been in that decade. Nor had I realised how much she owed her style to a childhood bout of polio. I am not sure whether ‘owed’ is the right term, but as a result of her illness Mitchell had reduced mobility in her left hand and therefore opted for open chords and picking (with her right hand) rather than fretting and chords (with her left) which, when combined with her voice and lyrics, gave her her initial distinctive style. Indeed, she reminds me of another singer/songwriter/troubador who preferred to be known primarily as an artist and had a very distinctive playing style. Kevin Coyne opted for (I quote) ‘an open tuning to the guitar… And … my tiny hands had trouble making proper chords so I started using my thumb. …’ Listening to Joni Mitchell’s songs today brought back memories of listening under the covers to the John Peel show on my older brother’s crystal radio set and later on, on the television, on the Old Grey Whistle Test.