Credit: Paul C Babin

Revisiting when Joni Mitchell played ‘Woodstock’ at the site of original festival in 1998

‘Woodstock’ is one of Joni Mitchell’s finest hours, one which captures the legendary songstress at her storytelling best. When she returned to the birthplace of the track in 1998 to perform the track it delivered a moment truly worthy of a place in the history books.

Her performance was part of A Day In The Garden festival which took place in the summer of ’98 at the original location in the iconic fields of Bethel, New York. The three-day event featured the likes of Lou Reed, Pete Townshend, Donovan and Stevie Nicks but it was the booking of Joni Mitchell that ended up being the coup of the weekend.

Mitchell had only sporadically played shows throughout the ’80s and ’90s before essentially retiring from playing live in 2000. Securing her name on the line-up was a huge deal for the festival organisers who, at the time, knew that she had the capabilities to make or break the festival. Unsurprisingly, she delivered the definitive set over the weekend which isn’t an easy accomplishment to achieve when you take to the stage after a certain Mr Lou Reed.

Mithcell had famously pulled out of her planned appearance at the classic Woodstock Festival in 1969 and missed out on being apart of history the first time around. Following the advice of David Geffen, who was worried she would miss out on a pivotal TV appearance on The Dick Cavett Show the following day, Mitchell opted against an appearance.

It’s somewhat strange that the most well-loved song about Woodstock comes from somebody who wasn’t even in attendance let alone performing, but this is how Mitchell saw it: “I was one of the many who were thwarted,” she said on the CBC program The National. “That was the place every kid wanted to be. I got to the airport with CSN and our agent, David Geffen, and our manager, Elliott, on a Sunday night. It was a catastrophe. I had to do The Dick Cavett Show the following day, and it was Geffen who decided we can’t get Joni out in time. So he took me back to his suite where he lived, and we watched it on TV.”

She poignantly added: “I was the deprived kid who couldn’t go, so I wrote it from the point of view of a kid going. If I had been there in the back room with all the egomaniacal crap that goes on backstage, I would not have had that perspective.”

Watch Mitchell make up for the lost time and perform the glorious ‘Woodstock’ in 1998.

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