Few more sparkling talents have ever graced the earth than Joni Mitchell. However, it wasn’t just music where she expressed her superhuman skills. Mitchell’s ability to write in such an open, honest and confessional manner made it impossible not to get swallowed up whole by her songs.
Over the last half a century, an astonishing number of artists have attempted to mould their output into a shape reminiscent of Mitchell, using her influence to guide their own artistic ventures. Still, nobody has managed to recapture her beguiling nature. Throughout her career, Mitchell curated her creativity and used this to cultivate her audience, ensuring that she has remained an influential artist across the decades.
To date, Mitchell has 19 studio albums under her belt, many of which have etched her firmly into the most esteemed pantheon of artists. However, outside the world of music, she has a remarkable skill that is one of the unlikeliest hobbies you’d ever imagine.
Although it’s been well documented that Mitchell has a love of painting and poetry, her secret attachment for the game of poker has remained under wraps. In the 1970s, poker was a pastime that kept the Hollywood Hills music scene busy, becoming a weekly tradition among certain circles — one which Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey masterminded. Soon enough, the games became an excuse for the most respected names in music to have an old fashioned knees up, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t take poker seriously.
In an interview with Vanity Fair about the days of the illustrious Laurel Canyon scene, Frey reminisced about those legendary nights. He said: “In 1974, I moved to a place at the corner of Ridpath and Kirkwood in Laurel Canyon, and we had poker games every Monday night during football season.”
Adding: “Notorious card games. Joni Mitchell got wind of those card games, and she always was a good hang, so she started coming every Monday night and playing cards with us. We’d watch football from six to nine and then play cards until the wee hours. They called our house the Kirkwood casino.”
Mitchell has never spoken about poker and her secret talent for the card game. However, she has dropped the occasional hint about her hidden expertise in her lyrics. On 1976 effort ‘Song For Sharon’, Mitchell sings: “Fleece me with the gamblers’ flocks, I can keep my cool at poker, But I’m a fool when love’s at stake, Because I can’t conceal emotion, What I’m feeling’s always written on my face.”
Meanwhile, on ‘Taming The Tiger’, Mitchell emotionally states: “The moon shed light, On my hopeless plight, As the radio blared so blad, Every disc, a poker chip, Every song just a one night stand.”
Mitchell is an enigma, and her love of poker only adds to her enchanting complexion. While she’s delivered up a portion of her soul on her devastatingly honest records, but even then, there’s so much about Mitchell that remains mysterious and makes her somebody that remains impossible to pin down or put in a specific box.