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The Late Movies: Joni Mitchell, Then and Now

OK, I have a confession to make: I'm a big wuss and I love Joni Mitchell. It's almost all my mom listened to while I was growing up, so even before I started discovering music on my own, I was pretty familiar with most of her stuff from the late 60s through the 80s. A lot of people love the old classics -- her 1971 album Blue still makes a lot of critical "desert island" top ten lists -- and while I certainly do too, I think she's done interesting and innovative work since then as well, much of which gets overlooked.

So this is a special kind of list. It's one especially good song from every Joni Mitchell album in chronological order, which, if listened to from start to finish, should provide an interesting snapshot of the progression of her style (from the folky 60s to the jazzy 70s and poppy 80s and then back to her folk roots in the 90s and beyond) and her voice, which gets gravelly and deep as the years wear on (she's been a smoker for decades, and you can tell; though she can't hit the high notes like she used to, I think it gives her voice a cool, weathered quality).

Song for a Seagull: "Cactus Tree" (1969)

The big hit from her debut album, the one that launched her into stardom, back in her flowy-gowned, ethereal hippie days.

Clouds: "Songs to Aging Children Come" (1969)

Another sparsely arranged album, mostly just Joni's voice and guitar. This is an early example of her musical experimentation -- there are certainly more popular songs from this album ("Both Sides Now," for instance), but the Allmusic guide credits this song with having "perhaps the most remarkably sophisticated chord sequence in all of pop music." I couldn't find her original on YouTube -- this is a cover version used in the film Alice's Restaurant.

Ladies of the Canyon: "For Free" (1970)

The album's title refers to the Laurel Canyon neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills of LA, where Mitchell and a lot of other music scenesters of the era lived, and the album deals with the complexities of celebrity and love and the Woodstock generation in a really lucid and honest way. This song -- among her best, I think -- captures the mixed feelings she must've had about her sudden fame and fortune.

OK, I'm breaking my rule and including a second song from this album -- "Rainy Night House," which is so snaky and jazzy and unlike much of what she'd done up to this point. I feel like this is the song that kind of points her way into the 70s, musically. She's definitely leaving behind the ethereal hippie girl vibe here. (This is a live version recorded a few years after the album was released.)

Blue: "A Case of You" (1971)

In January 2000, the New York Times chose Blue as one of the 25 albums that represented "turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music." I couldn't agree more -- every song on this album is like an intricate little gem. They're all worthy of posting here, but this song gets me every time. This performance looks like it's from the late 70s or early 80s -- but I think it still resonates loud and clear.

For the Roses: "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" (1972)

Her big hit on this album was "You Turn Me On I'm A Radio" -- written semi-sarcastically after record company execs requested she turn out a radio-friendly song -- but I think it's one of her least interesting. There's way more soul in this track, about a heroin addict searching for "lady relief" --

Court and Spark: "Court and Spark"(1974)

Her best-selling album ever, recorded after a two-year hiatus from the music biz. It's clear she spent those years listening to a lot of jazz, because it's infused throughout what used to be a much more straightforwardly folky sound. I've always loved this one --

And speaking of jazz, Herbie Hancock and Norah Jones' cover of it ain't bad either:

The Hissing of Summer Lawns: "Edith and the Kingpin" (1975)

OK, this is where most people who like "early" Joni Mitchell check out and stop paying attention, but I think some of her most interesting work starts here. She completely reinvents her sound on this album -- again -- and the result are these complex, multilayered, snaky, jazzy numbers that paint these very cinematic portraits of little situations and moments in time. I can't think of anything else that sounds like this, before or since. (Also, this is when musical geniuses in their own right like Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny became part of her sound -- her "band," I guess you could call them.)

Hejira: "Amelia" (1976)

Sparse and thoughtful, these were songs written on a cross-country road trip. I think this homage to Amelia Earhart is the standout.

Don Juan's Reckless Daughter: "Overture/Cotton Avenue" (1977)

Super experimental, improvisational, and loose, it's one of her least accessible but most intriguing albums (and definitely one of her least known). Lots of overdubbing and harmonies here create big, weird sonic landscapes -- and bassist Jaco Pastorius does some of his best work here, especially in this song (which kicks into high gear around 2:00 -- wait for it).

joni-mingus

Mingus: "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines" (1979)

Recorded with jazz pioneer Charles Mingus in the months before his death, it would be Mingus' final recording effort, and the album is dedicated wholly to him. Joni also painted the above picture of Mingus -- included as an LP album insert (which I have framed and hung on the wall of my office, FYI). Also notable as the first album she released while I was, like, alive.

Try not to tap your feet to the funky-ass jive she and Jaco lay down on this track, I dare you.

Wild Things Run Fast: "Moon at the Window" (1982)

Another reinvention of her sound. There are several tracks on this album that are definitely of the 80s -- and I don't think they're among her best work -- but there are a number of gems, like this one. Interestingly, Joni said in an interview that the Police influenced the change in her sound: "their rhythmic hybrids, and the positioning of the drums, and the sound of the drums, was one of the main calls out to me to make a more rhythmic album."

Dog Eat Dog: "Ethiopia" (1985)

Warning: this album is HEAVILY 80s. Lots of fans were pissed about all the synths she used (Thomas Dolby produced some of the tracks), and it's fascinating how angry a lot of these songs are -- though it seems a heartfelt reaction to the materialism of the 80s. This song isn't my fave or anything, but it just seems so quintessentially of the time -- that awful famine in Ethiopia seemed like it was the only thing on the news when I was growing up -- that it captures the album for me.

Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm: "The Beat of Black Wings" (1988)

The last of her super-synthy 80s albums, it has a few standouts, and is notable, I think, for how political it is. She rails against consumerism, commercialism and the destruction of Native American culture (and Native American musical tropes pop up throughout the songs). In case their are kids in the room: Joni talks about abortion and drops a big fat F-bomb in this one.

Night Ride Home: "Passion Play" (1991)

A return to form, in my opinion. She ditches most of the synths, gets out the guitar and the piano, and kicks ass. There are several great songs here. I'm including three. It's that good!

"Slouching Towards Bethlehem"

A brilliant musical rendition of Yeats' seminal poem. Truly powerful. (Please ignore the video's insanely annoying on-the-nose graphics, however. Maybe hide the window?)

Two Grey Rooms

A heartfelt piano ballad inspired by a story about German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who, amid the repression of Germany's antigay Paragraph 175 laws, was left broken-hearted by a male lover in his youth. In a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mitchell says of the song:

It's a story of obsession ... about this German aristocrat who had a lover in his youth that he never got over. He later finds this man working on a dock and notices the path that the man takes every day to and from work. So the aristocrat gives up his fancy digs and moves to these two shabby gray rooms overlooking this street, just to watch this man walk to and from work.

She's released several albums since then, my favorite being Turbulent Indigo, but videos of the songs are tough to find. Check out her rendition (songification?) of the Book of Job (no kidding), called "The Sire of Sorrow." Dang.

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25 Royals in the Line of Succession to the British Throne
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Between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcoming their third child on April 23, 2018 and Prince Harry's upcoming marriage to Suits star Meghan Markle in May, the line of succession to the British throne has become a topic of interest all over the world. And the truth is, it’s complicated. Though Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 92 years old on April 21, shows no signs of slowing down, here are the royals who could one day take her place on the throne—in one very specific order.

1. PRINCE CHARLES

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As a direct result of his mother being the world's longest-reigning monarch, Prince Charles—the eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip—is the longest serving heir to the throne; he became heir apparent in 1952, when his mother ascended to the throne.

2. PRINCE WILLIAM

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At 35 years old, odds are good that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge—the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana—will ascend to the throne at some point in his lifetime.

3. PRINCE GEORGE 

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On July 22, 2013, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their first child, Prince George of Cambridge, who jumped the line to step ahead of his uncle, Prince Harry, to become third in the line of succession.

4. PRINCESS CHARLOTTE 

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On May 2, 2015, William and Catherine added another member to their growing brood: a daughter, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Though her parents just welcomed a bouncing baby boy, she will maintain the fourth-in-line position because of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which went into effect just a few weeks before her arrival, and removed a long-held rule which stated that any male sibling (regardless of birth order) would automatically move ahead of her.

5. PRINCE OF CAMBRIDGE

 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge depart the Lindo Wing with their newborn son at St Mary's Hospital on April 23, 2018 in London, England
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On April 23, 2018, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their third child—a son, whose name has yet to be announced, but who has already pushed his uncle, Prince Harry, out of the fifth position in line to the throne.

6. PRINCE HARRY

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As the second-born son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince Harry's place in the line is a regularly changing one. It changed earlier this week, when his brother William's third child arrived, and could change again if and when their family expands.

7. PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK

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Prince Andrew is a perfect example of life before the Succession to the Crown Act 2013: Though he’s the second-born son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, he’s actually their third child (Princess Anne came between him and Prince Charles). But because the rules gave preference to males, Prince Andrew would inherit the throne before his older sister.

8. PRINCESS BEATRICE OF YORK

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Because Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, had two daughters and no sons, none of that male-preference primogeniture stuff mattered in terms of their placement. But with each child her cousin Prince William has, Princess Beatrice moves farther away from the throne. If Beatrice looks familiar, it might be because of the headlines she made with the Dr. Seuss-like hat she wore to William and Catherine’s wedding. (The infamous topper later sold on eBay for more than $130,000, all of which went to charity.)

9. PRINCESS EUGENIE OF YORK

Princess Eugenie of York arrives in the parade ring during Royal Ascot 2017 at Ascot Racecourse on June 20, 2017 in Ascot, England
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Though she’s regularly seen at royal events, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s youngest daughter spends the bulk of her time indulging her interest in fine art. She has held several jobs in the art world, and is currently a director at Hauser & Wirth’s London gallery.

10. PRINCE EDWARD, EARL OF WESSEX

 Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex leaves after a visit to Prince Philip
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Like his older brother Andrew, Prince Edward—the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip—jumps the line ahead of his older sister, Princess Anne, because of the older rule that put males ahead of females.

11. JAMES, VISCOUNT SEVERN

 James, Viscount Severn, rides on the fun fair carousel on day 4 of the Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 11, 2013 in Windsor, England
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James, Viscount Severn—the younger of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex’s two children, and their only son—turned 10 years old on December 17, 2017, and celebrated it as the 10th royal in line of succession. (The birth of the youngest Prince of Cambridge pushed him back a spot.)

12. LADY LOUISE MOUNTBATTEN-WINDSOR

Lady Louise Windsor during the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony at Buckingham Palace on June 15, 2013 in London, England.
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Because the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 wasn’t enacted until 2015, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor—the older of Prince Edward’s two children—will always be just behind her brother in the line of succession.

13. PRINCESS ANNE, THE PRINCESS ROYAL

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, visits the Hambleton Equine Clinic on October 10, 2017 in Stokesley, England
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Princess Anne, the Queen and Prince Philip’s second-born child and only daughter, may never rule over the throne in her lifetime, but at least she gets to be called “The Princess Royal.”

14. PETER PHILLIPS

Peter Phillips poses for a photo on The Mall
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The eldest child and only son of Princess Anne and her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, stands just behind his mother in line. Interesting fact: Had Phillips’s wife, Autumn Kelly, not converted from Roman Catholicism to the Church of England before their marriage in 2008, Phillips would have lost his place in line.

15. SAVANNAH PHILLIPS

Savannah Phillips attends a Christmas Day church service
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On December 29, 2010, Peter and Autumn Phillips celebrated the birth of their first child, Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, who is also the Queen’s first great-grandchild. She’s currently 15th in line.

16. ISLA PHILLIPS

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
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Less than two years after Savannah, Peter and Autumn Phillips had a second daughter, Isla, who stands just behind her sister in line. It wasn’t until 2017 that Savannah and Isla made their Buckingham Palace balcony debut (in honor of their great-grandmother’s 91st birthday).

17. ZARA TINDALL

 Zara Tindall arrives for a reception at the Guildhall
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Not one to hide in the background, Zara Tindall—Princess Anne’s second child and only daughter—has lived much of her life in the spotlight. A celebrated equestrian, she won the Eventing World Championship in Aachen in 2006 and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year the same year (her mom earned the same title in 1971). She’s also Prince George’s godmother.

18. MIA TINDALL

Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
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Zara Tindall’s daughter Mia may just be 4 years old, but she’s already regularly making headlines for her outgoing personality. And though she’s only 18th in line to the throne, her connection to the tippity top of the royal family is much closer: Prince William is her godfather.

19. DAVID ARMSTRONG-JONES, 2ND EARL OF SNOWDON

David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon
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David Armstrong-Jones, the eldest child of Princess Margaret, isn’t waiting around to see if the British crown ever lands on his head. The 56-year-old, who goes by David Linley in his professional life, has made a name for himself as a talented furniture-maker. His bespoke pieces, sold under the brand name Linley, can be purchased through his own boutiques as well as at Harrods.

20. CHARLES ARMSTRONG-JONES, VISCOUNT LINLEY

Margarita Armstrong-Jones and Charles Patrick Inigo Armstrong-Jones
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David Armstrong-Jones’s only son, Charles, may be 20th in line to the throne, but the 18-year-old is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.

21. LADY MARGARITA ARMSTRONG-JONES

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) talks with Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (C) as her father David Armstrong-Jones (L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, known as David Linley
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Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, the youngest child of David Armstrong-Jones and his only daughter, is also the only granddaughter of Princess Margaret. Now 15 years old (she'll turn 16 in June), Lady Margarita made headlines around the world in 2011 when she served as a flower girl at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

22. LADY SARAH CHATTO

Lady Sarah Chatto, the daughter of Princess Margaret arrives for her mother's memorial service
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Lady Sarah Chatto, Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones’s only daughter, is the youngest grandchild of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. In addition to serving as a bridesmaid to Princess Diana, she is Prince Harry’s godmother.

23. SAMUEL CHATTO

Lady Sarah Chatto (L) and her son Samuel Chatto (R) leave a Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Lord Snowdon at Westminster Abbey on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom
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The first-born son of Lady Sarah Chatto and her husband, Daniel, has a long way to go to reach the throne: He’s currently 23rd in line.

24. ARTHUR CHATTO

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For better or worse, Sarah and Daniel Chatto’s youngest son Arthur has become a bit of a social media sensation. He's made headlines recently as he regularly posts selfies to Instagram—some of them on the eyebrow-raising side, at least as far as royals go.

25. PRINCE RICHARD, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER

Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester makes a speech during the unveiling ceremony of London's first public memorial to the Korean War on December 3, 2014 in London, England
Carl Court/Getty Images

At 73 years old, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester is the youngest grandchild of King George V and Queen Mary. Formerly, he made a living as an architect, until the 1972 death of his brother, Prince William of Gloucester, put him next in line to inherit his father’s dukedom. On June 10, 1974, he officially succeeded his father as Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster, and Baron Culloden.

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20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins
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To celebrate World Penguin Day (which is today, April 25), here are a few fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds.

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

emperor penguin
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3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

Gentoo Penguin
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4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

penguins swimming in the ocean
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5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

emperor penguins
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6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

penguins swimming in the ocean
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7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

molting penguin
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8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to a thousand birds.

king penguins
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9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

chinstrap penguins
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10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

maegellic penguin nesting
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11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

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12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

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13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguins nest
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14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

penguin chicks
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15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

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