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As you may or may not know, I am a HUGE Joni Mitchell fan. I ‘discovered’ her in my parent’s vinyl collection when I was 13 or 14. My mom had her “Miles of Aisles” album, and I listened to it all the time. I tired of the album after a time, and turned to different music genres to get me through my high school years (ska!ska!ska!). It wasn’t until the end of my college years I remembered my Joni-love and began searching for her music on audiogalaxy and IRC.

Since then, I’ve been listening mostly to her defining (in my opinion) album, “Blue.” I find that sometimes I literally CRAVE some of those songs, like a junkie who needs a hit of a soprano and her guitar. To me, that album is near perfection. It has songs for any mood. It is definitely one of my “desert island discs.”

This fall, I saw that Starbucks had released a new album from Joni Mitchell, “Shine.” I immediately purchased it for my mom as a Christmas gift. I knew she would be a fan. She and my late Aunt Debbie loved Joni more than and before me. I gave it to her with the caveat that she make me a copy!

I got the copied CD just this weekend. I popped it into my car’s cd player this morning. And I wanted to cry.

Joni Mitchell is a smoker. And it has ruined her voice.

Why did she do that to herself!? I could barely listen to the CD because it is so tragic. She sounds like she couldn’t sing a soprano note if her life depended on it. Her register has definitely changed into an alto. One could certainly try to attribute this to age, but that doesn’t explain the sound of vocal chords literally straining to hold a solid note, or the breathiness in every phrase. No, it is certainly due to smoking for many years. Her once clear as crystal, strong, and soaring voice has been diminished to that of a woman who sits in the back bar at the Rickshaw bar, attempting to sing karaoke after three gin and tonics and a pack of Marlboros.

…Is that too harsh?

If it is, it’s only because I am so disappointed, and angry that she did it to herself.

I wonder if she realizes what she has done to her voice by smoking? If, while they were in the studio, she realized what her voice now sounds like? And that it is her fault?

I guess it’s back to Miles of Aisles and Blue, for me. I hope Joni quits smoking. As for now, I think she should just stick with the painting.

I feel guilty for being so harsh on a musician I love so much. I still love her. I just wish she hadn’t self-destructed one of the world’s most beautiful voices.