Joni Mitchell: I felt like a black man
(CNN) — Joni Mitchell thinks she’s experienced being a black man.
One of the most influential singer-songwriters of the late 20th century, Mitchell, 71, mentioned her crossover experiences in New York magazine interview about wresting her legacy from the biographers who don’t understand her, the recording industry that’s tried to limit her and the sexist movie stars and singers who have decried her fashion sense.
The Canadian wisp of a singer feels she shares an affinity with black men. “When I see black men sitting, I have a tendency to go — like I nod like I’m a brother,” she told New York magazine. “I really feel an affinity because I have experienced being a black guy on several occasions.”
She claimed it started with comments by her dentist. “One day he said, ‘Oh, you’ve got the worst bite I’ve ever seen. You have teeth like a Negro male.’ ”
It got her thinking about casual racism, and that inspired her to play with the cover of her 1977 album, “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter.” The cover features a young child, Mitchell as herself and someone who looks like a black man.
“That’s me. The black guy in the front.”
What? Mitchell said that, inspired by someone walking down Hollywood Boulevard, she dressed up — in blackface — like the man for a Halloween party. It caused such a ruckus, the singer said.
Later, she says, she was annoyed by the photographer shooting her album cover, so she decided to throw him for a loop. “It was a great revenge. That was all to get his a**. To freak him out. I had to keep him on the defensive.”
By Katia Hetter