Ivan Kreilkamp at Public Books:
When Joni Mitchell first came to prominence, in the late-1960s “Summer of Love” era, she was often perceived as a kind of “poetess” or “nightingale” folk singer: a putatively pure origin of beautifully natural-seeming songs (“The Circle Game,” “Chelsea Morning, and “Both Sides, Now,” among many others). When the rapper Q-Tip declared (on Janet Jackson’s 1997 song “Got ’Til it’s Gone”) that “Joni Mitchell never lies,” he articulated a familiar understanding of the singer as, above all, truthful and authentic.
But Mitchell’s brilliant art was always a product of artifice as much as it was of honesty. Her song “Woodstock” is now remembered as one of the most iconic musical artifacts of the late 1960s American counterculture, but it’s worth remembering that it was written by a Canadian artist who did not perform at (or even attend) Woodstock.