This is no April Fools' story: in the early '70s, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell was so distraught about breaking off a romance with Jackson Browne that she attempted suicide.
It’s just another example of how the current crop of junior music celebs in Hollywood have nothing on the great rockers of the '70s. Britney Spears and friends should take solace in that the much more talented older crowd of that era did everything under the sun and survived.
This serious and sad incident happened circa 1972, while Mitchell was composing her album, "For the Roses." It’s reported by journalist Sheila Weller in her new book, “Girls Like Us,” which was excerpted in the April issue of Vanity Fair.
Weller’s book chronicles the rise and fall of Mitchell, Carly Simon and Carole King, subtitled “the Journey of a Generation.”
A couple of weeks ago, I told you about King’s many husbands as recounted by Weller, including the tragic drug death of one of them.
The Mitchell story, however, is something of a shocker. What’s worse is that Weller reports that prior to the suicide attempt, Mitchell confided in a friend that the normally placid Browne had struck her. The pair had gone on the road as a performing duo just before Browne’s second album, his first bestseller, took off. (It’s the one with “Doctor My Eyes”).
Mitchell had been bunking at producer David Geffen’s house, Weller writes. At the end of 1972, she got her own place as her relationship with Browne had become strained.
One night, Joni claimed that Browne had “dissed her” on stage at the Roxy. Later, as he was walking downstairs and she was going up, she said they had a verbal altercation. She told her friend it resulted in him “hitting her.” Mitchell was so distraught she ran barefoot out on Sunset Boulevard.
But it’s what happened next, Weller reports, that really rocked Mitchell’s world. Browne did not repair his romance with her, but took up with another woman who would become his wife and mother of his son, Ethan. Mitchell was so despondent that Weller says she told friends of a “suicide attempt.”
Weller writes: “One confidante says ‘[Joni] took pills. She cut herself up and threw herself against a wall and got completely bloodied — glass broke. She vomited up the pills.’”
The incident, Weller says, is recalled in Mitchell’s song, “Car on a Hill,” the stark number from Joni’s watershed album, “Court and Spark.”
There’s a lot more about Joni Mitchell’s wild youth in “Girls Like Us,” including the news that she, like Carly Simon and several dozen other pretty stars of the era, had a fling with Warren Beatty.
One of Mitchell’s exes, Dave Naylor, tells Weller that another “Court and Spark” song, “Same Situation,” is about Beatty. And “People’s Parties,” the song that precedes it, is about Mitchell’s brief adventure with Beatty in his life of “Shampoo”-era socializing up on Mulholland Drive with Jack Nicholson and pals.
Weller’s book, by the way, is not just a gossipy tour through the lives of these three most important artists. There’s lots about their work. In Mitchell’s case, Weller also gives some good rethinking to the mixed reviews of the singer-songwriter’s “jazz” albums, beginning with this reporter’s favorite: the brilliant "The Hissing of Summer Lawns."
If you’re interested in more trivia, Weller picks up on a column item I reported here back on April 12, 2002: that the song “Coyote” was an ode to another of Mitchell’s ex-lovers, playwright Sam Shepard. He’s referred to in the lyrics as “a prisoner of the white lines on the freeway.” An amazing performance of “Coyote” is featured in Martin Scorsese’s classic film, “The Last Waltz.”
Fans at this past weekend’s Beatle Fest convention got a jolt when none other than Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood turned up in New Jersey for the fan gathering.
He arrived at 2 a.m. on Saturday morning just to say hello to his old pal Patti Boyd (Harrison Clapton) after she had told him by phone she was too tired to leave the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Meadowlands and meet him in the city.
The shocked fans in the hotel lobby broke out in a spontaneous version of “I Wanna Be Your Man,” the Beatles song that was the Stones’ first single. Boyd told Martin Lewis that Wood said: "Nothing's changed. It's still always about the Beatles vs. Stones!"
I told you on Feb. 1 that superstar rock group U2 was in deep negotiations with Live Nation. At the time, my source thought it was possible the group would do a Madonna-like deal, including record/CD distribution. Universal Music Group insisted U2 was staying.
Monday, Live Nation announced a 12-year deal with U2 that includes literally everything but the record/CD part. UMG dodged a bullet on this one, but I think in the long run it makes more sense. Watch for more “older” acts to start doing Live Nation deals, many with the CD component. Kudos to U2’s forever manager Paul McGuiness. ...
”Rush Hour"/"X-Men"/"Family Man” director Brett Ratner’s elegant 39th birthday dinner Saturday night at Cipriani Downtown is still getting raves. Among the guests were model Alina Puscau (Brett’s girlfriend), Ronald Perelman, actress Gina Gershon, hip-hop record exec Andre Harrell, director Allen Hughes (“Dead Presidents”), art mavens Larry Gagosian and Tony Shafrazi, actor Frank Grillo and actress wife Wendy Moniz, famed Miami attorney Al Rosenstein and New York cop/Harvard grad Edward Conlon, whose memoir, “Blue Blood,” Ratner is producing for NBC as a series with Grillo as one of the leads.
Producer Emmanuel Benbihy is also very excited about Ratner’s segment in “New York, I Love You,” which stars James Caan. Guests dined on Cipriani’s delicious cuisine, but the ice cream birthday cake was from Carvel! ...
Two good guys from the movie biz will be honored this month by the (American) Museum of the Moving Image: Showtime’s Matt Blank and Focus Features’ James Schamus, who’s also an award-winning screenwriter. The black-tie event, on April 30 at the St. Regis Hotel, is usually a blast. The honorary chairmen are Universal Pictures chief Ron Meyer and CBS head honcho Les Moonves. ...
Condolences to Eddie Levert, the founder and lead singer of the O’Jays, and all of his family. His 39-year-old son, Sean, died Monday after falling ill during a short jail stay in Cleveland for nonpayment of child support.
Sean, like his late brother Gerald, who died in 2006 at age 40, was a member of the hit-making '80s group Levert. Reports indicate that Sean, who was overweight and suffered from high blood pressure, began to hallucinate in jail. A major investigation should be under way. ...