Joni Mitchell accepted an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music and called it her “moment of revenge” on a music teacher from her youth.
The revered singer-songwriter was in high spirits at the private event, at which Berklee students sang with professional performers, leading the creator of the works to shout: “Oh, it’s beautiful!” and even burst into tears at one point.
During her acceptance speech, the college reported, Mitchell recalled an argument with her childhood piano teacher. “‘Why would you want to play by ear when you can have the masters under your fingertips?’ And she whacked me across the knuckles with her ruler. So I said to her, ‘But the masters had to play by ear to come up with that stuff.’ And she whacked me again!” She added: “I wonder if she saw any of this [event]. It’s my moment of revenge.”
She continued: “Well, luckily I’m too old to get a swelled head… I wish my parents were alive. My mother in particular would be really proud of this because she wanted me to go to college. I went to art school and I quit after a year. She thinks of me as a quitter. So to see this achievement would be very impressive to her. I wish I could share it with her.”
Berklee president Erica Muhl said: “We at Berklee are simply joining the whole world in celebrating Joni Mitchell’s impact on music and women everywhere, and on anyone who was forever changed after their first experience with her music – which, let’s face it, is pretty much all of us.”
She added: “Since her debut in the late ’60s, Joni has been a force for change in the industry, blazing the trail for women in music with an unwavering commitment to achieving the status rightfully due her as one of the world’s great musical artists.”
Mitchell recently delivered an unannounced performance at the Newport Folk Festival, her first since suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015. Her record label boss later predicted there was more to come from the 78-year-old artist, saying: “She is really getting back into the swing of things.”
Joni Mitchell Albums Ranked
Individuality set her apart from other singer-songwriters in the ’70s.