Joni Mitchell fans, get your tissues ready. On tonight’s PBS special, Joni Mitchell: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, her contemporaries such as James Taylor and Herbie Hancock and fans such as Brandi Carlile and Diana Krall pay tribute to the legendary singer-songwriter with interpretations of some of her classics.
Among them: Marcus Mumford performs “Carey,” Herbie Hancock and Ledisi perform “River” and Angélique Kidjo sings “Help Me.”
Mitchell herself, who had largely stopped performing in the last two decades before appearing at last year’s Newport Folk Festival, mesmerized the audience with a clear and rich rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.”
The concert took place on March 1 at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Throughout the PBS special, which documents the event, musical tributes are interspersed with photos and videos from throughout Mitchell’s career. Her visual art provides the backdrop as her friends and collaborators take the stage.
“Joni Mitchell’s music hits you straight to your heart, down to your soul,” comments Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden before giving Mitchell the prize. “You can say she has truly helped all of us look at both sides now.”
Previous recipients of the Gershwin Prize include Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, the songwriting duo of the late Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King and Smokey Robinson.
“I’m a creative person. I like the creative process,” Mitchell said in a statement. “I’ve been a painter all my life. I’ve been a musician most of my life. If you can paint with a brush, you can paint with words. … It’s a great honor to join the pantheon of recipients.”
Joni Mitchell: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song airs on PBS stations at 9 p.m. ET tonight. It will broadcast to U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world via the American Forces Network.