February 10, 2015 10:50 pm
Updated: February 10, 2015 11:04 pm

Joni Mitchell reflects on posing in blackface for album cover

Joni Mitchell, pictured in February 2015.

Jason Merritt / Getty Images

TORONTO — Canadian music icon Joni Mitchell says she decided to appear in blackface on the cover of one of her albums because she feels a connection to 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.”

The 71-year-old singer-songwriter recalled she dressed up as a black man — complete with dark makeup on her face — for the cover of her 1977 album Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter because she didn’t like the photographer.

“It was great revenge. That was all to get his a**. To freak him out,” Mitchell said. “I had to keep him on the defensive.”

Joni Mitchell appears as a black man on the cover of her 1977 album.

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Mitchell also spoke candidly about her decision to give up her daughter for adoption, her health woes, and her thoughts on Taylor Swift portraying her in a proposed biopic.

“I’ve never heard Taylor’s music,” Mitchell said. “I’ve seen her. Physically, she looks similarly small hipped and high cheekbones.

“I don’t know what her music sounds like, but I do know this — that if she’s going to sing and play me, good luck.”

READ MORE: Joni Mitchell slams her native Saskatoon

Mitchell told the magazine she has suffered through polio, scarlet fever, dengue, abscessed ovaries and has, for the last eight years, had a skin disorder called Morgellons.

She described it was a “weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space” that causes “fibers in a variety of colours” to protrude from her skin “like mushrooms after a rainstorm.”

(The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said in 2012 that Morgellons is “a delusional infestation.”)

READ MORE: Canada’s Joni Mitchell models for Yves St. Laurent

She also reflected on getting pregnant by a college boyfriend and then fleeing Saskatoon for Toronto, where she gave birth without telling her family and put the baby girl up for adoption.

“She had a lot of things to work out,” she said of her daughter Kilauren Gibb, with whom she reunited in 1997. “You know, she had a lot of issues, and a lot of blame, and couldn’t understand my circumstance, and didn’t want to in the beginning.”

Mitchell, who divides her time between a home in Bel Air, California and an 80-acre property in British Columbia, recently released a four-CD collection called Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, a Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced.

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