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.”
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.”
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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.”)
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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.