Joni Mitchell was honored in Washington D.C., presented with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, and celebrated by her peers and famous fans, including Cyndi Lauper, James Taylor, Marcus Mumford and Brandi Carlile.
Walking the red carpet with a cane, the Canadian singer-songwriter said that the honor was “very exciting.”
After an evening of performances in her honor, Mitchell, 79, took the stage and paid homage to the Gershwin Prize’s namesake, George Gershwin, performing “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess.”
Performers Graham Nash, Ledisi, Herbie Hancock, as well as Lauper, Taylor, Mumford and Carlile later joined Mitchell on stage to perform her hit song “Circle Game,” bringing the crowd to their feet.
Carlile sang her own cover of Mitchell’s “Shine,” as well as performing back up vocals. While admittedly a fan of Mitchell’s, Carlile revealed she had only discovered the legend later in her life.
“It felt really feminine to me, really vulnerable, and it made me really uncomfortable, which is a reflection, I think, on my own ego and my coming of age in being a bit of a gender non-conforming person or just not really understanding the way that she was showing me, and all of us, the world. And it wasn’t until I fell in love and met my wife that I realized how multi-dimensional Joni was as an artist,” Carlile said of Mitchell’s music.
Nash, who previously dated Mitchell in the 1970s, performed “A Case of You,” later in the evening, a song Mitchell wrote about their breakup.
“She has had many, many difficulties in her life with polio when she was young. And now there’s a brain aneurysm several years ago. But to see her come back and be singing again and playing again is incredible. I mean, talk about resilience,” Nash said of his former lover.
Another former partner, Taylor, called Mitchell “a national treasure,” describing his time with the performer as “one of the chapters in my life that I’m fondest of.”
“She had a huge effect on me, on my work. And we collaborated during the year or so that we were together on a lot of stuff,” Taylor explained.
The Gershwin Prize, created in 2007, has previously honored several prestigious performers. Last year’s recipient was Lionel Richie.
Other winners include Willie Nelson, Paul McCartney, Carole King and Billy Joel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.