Joni Mitchell is revered as quite possibly the greatest female singer/songwriter ever. She’s also a patron saint of sorts for the bohemian black: lauded by everyone from Prince to Janet Jackson to Q-Tip. There’s a reason for that. Much like kindred spirit Nina Simone, Mitchell’s voice radiates truth and conviction.

Not sure exactly when I discovered Joni. It must have been at some point in the early or mid Nineties when my musical spectrum was widening rapidly. ‘Cause like most artists whose music sticks to the ribs, Joni’s not a one-listen and “get it” type artist. Actually, it might have been (believe it or not) VH-1 who got me started on the Joni path by playing the video for “How Do You Stop”, a remake of a song written by the late Dan Hartman and performed by the late James Brown (believe it or not). Wouldn’t you know it, YouTube has the video, which features Seal.

From there, it was pretty easy to pick up the classics: “Blue”and “Court & Spark”. However, the performance that sealed my undying love for Joni (after being put off by some crochety comments she’d made towards reverent singer-songwriters of the present) was another unlikely source: the movie “Love Actually”.

That’s a lie. It wasn’t the actual movie (which I don’t think I saw until last year). It was the soundtrack. There, nestled amid songs by Kelly Clarkson & Maroon 5, was an absolutely stunning orchestral version of “Both Sides Now”. Look, the original version of this song is brilliant as is, but listening to it as sung by a woman who has gone through life and has 35 more years of experience with which to view this song’s lyrics…it’s an amazing experience.

This live version is similar enough to the version found on the soundtrack (actually, they’re more or less identical if you take out the crowd noise) for you to get a feel of the difference between a more idealistic, younger Joni, and the wizened, reflective Joni now. If there can be any argument made in favor of smoking cigarettes, it comes from the fact that Joni’s voice is even more beautiful now than it was then.

So right now I’m still trying to grasp “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” and “Mingus”, but her 2007 album “Shine” was a gem, and I’m sure Joni has some more great music left in her. But these two performances leave no doubt as to why she’s so beloved.