Rock 'n' Roll's Leading Lady

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She don't like my kick pleat skirt

She don't like my eyelids painted green

She don't like me staying up late

In my high-heeled shoes

Living for that Rock 'n' Roll dancing scene

When Myrtle Anderson's daughter Joan lived at home in Saskatoon, Sask., she was a rebel. She danced the wicked twist ignored her math, spent Saturdays sketching Indians and communed only with her celluloid idol James Dean. But Mrs. Anderson's girl turned out different from most of the teen-agers living for the rock-'n'-roll scene. She learned to play the guitar and discovered that she had a fluent talent for words. Today, as Joni Mitchell, she is a creative force of unrivaled stature in the mercurial world of rock. Help Me, a single released this year, has already sold 800,000 copies. Sales of her first six albums total 4.6 million copies. The newest, Miles of Aisles, released last month, was a gold record before it arrived in the stores.

The new rock heroes of the '70s have turned out to be glittery imitations of talent. Most sixties' superstars survive in repackaged groups with discounted reputations. But Joni's writing and singing continue to renew themselves. Her roots in rebellion have flourished as stubborn, invincible candor. "The most important thing is to write in your own blood," she says. "I bare intimate feelings because people should know how other people feel." Joni's confidences, delivered in poetic portraits, produce in her huge and varied audience a spirit of communion that separates the poet from the diarist.

"Joni," says Singer Linda Ronstadt, "is the first woman to match any man on his own terms as a songwriter, guitar player or as an incredibly magnetic human being." Among other things, Joni is a focal point for elegance in a profession of rumpled informality A Persian carpet and a vase of red roses are de rigueur stage decorations for concerts. Most rock-concert performers, bored with singing their ultimate paean for the umpteenth time, wait for their own turns on the program in backstage trailers. But when Joni goes onstage, so do the other entertainers. Standing between speakers and behind amps, they become almost as enthusiastic as the ones who paid to get in.

Booted and largely bespectacled throngs of long-haired teenagers dressed in the neuter hues of khaki and denim, waltz in the aisles passing fruit and sunflower seeds. Joni's arrival turns the camp town meeting into a sing-along chautauqua. After the concert, the fans mass around the main stage exit to wait for Joni, and when she appears they voice timid hellos, give her bouquets or simply smile.

Everyone seems to know Joni. She is the rural neophyte waiting in a subway, a free spirit drinking Greek wine in the moonlight, an organic Earth Mother dispensing fresh bread and herb tea, and the reticent feminist who by trial and error has charted the male as well as the female ego.

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