Being human is an objectively shitty situation, lately, on this slowly decaying earth. Everything is bad: the senseless wars, the policing of women’s bodies, Bezos heading to space in a dick rocketship while his workers suffer (though they unionized this week while he was gone, hell yea.) But during the 2022 Grammy awards, for a fleeting moment, the vision of a little red beret brought me joy—an emotion I wasn’t sure I had access to anymore—because it rested upon the head of living legend Joni Mitchell.
Yes, 78-year-old Joni Fucking Mitchell was at the Grammys. We haven’t seen her much since she sadly suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015, but earlier this week, the brilliant singer and songwriter showed up to be honored as MusiCares’ Person of the Year in a rare public appearance. Then, to our great pleasure, she appeared once more on the red carpet on Sunday evening in a billowing white pantsuit, adorned in technicolor sunflowers and pansies and poppies, with a matching red cane, red necklace, red booties, red nails, and that goddamn perfect red beret.
The classic French hat sat atop Joni Mitchell’s white, wavy pigtails as she introduced Brandi Carlisle in a little slice of music history. It was there as she won her ninth career Grammy for Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) in the Best Historical Album category, and it was there to remind us that Joni Mitchell is all that is good and sweet and earnest in this abysmal little world of ours.
There are not many things I love in earnest anymore. But I earnestly love “Big Yellow Taxi.” I cry when I hear the lyric, “I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” I deeply love a songwriter as brilliant, multifaceted, and all-encompassing as Joni Mitchell, because there just isn’t anyone else like her in the world. She’s the kind of woman who once said in a Rolling Stone Q&A, “I’ll tell you one thing that’s pretty arrogant. This guy came up to me at some public event once, and he said to me, ‘Joni, you’re the best woman songwriter in the world.’ And I went, ‘Ha,’ and kind of snickered.”
That red beret is the snicker of Joni Mitchell. It’s a certain kind of feminism that doesn’t need to be screamed but is just beautifully conveyed. That red beret is a disillusioned woman who can still put her finger on the obscure feeling of falling in love and the taste of longing. That red beret is a time machine to remember the Joni of the ‘70s, when she was a very young woman in a very different beret, but also a very good one.
She kept it real. Nothing is pure anymore, except for Joni Mitchell and her beret.