The singer-songwriter was honored at the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year benefit.

The lucky audience at Friday's tribute to Joni Mitchell in Las Vegas was treated to that rarest of things: a public performance by Mitchell herself.

The legendary singer-songwriter was feted at the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year benefit gala, mounted by the Recording Academy two days ahead of the Grammy Awards ceremony. Toward the end of the night, the 78-year-old Mitchell — who suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015 that temporarily left her unable to walk or speak — took the stage to sing along to "Big Yellow Taxi," marking one of the very few times she has performed in recent years.

Joni Mitchell speaks onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Joni Mitchell at MGM Grand Marquee Ballroom on April 01, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Joni Mitchell was honored with the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year Award ahead of the 64th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony.
| Credit: Lester Cohen/Getty

The rest of the evening was filled with musical tributes, curated by Grammy nominees Jon Batiste and Brandi Carlile, who served as artistic directors for the event. John Legend performed the poignant track "River" from Mitchell's 1971 landmark album, Blue; Billy Porter put his personal spin on the iconic, much-covered "Both Sides Now"; Cyndi Lauper sang the 1994 deep cut "The Magdalene Laundries"; and Carlile took the stage to perform "Woodstock," with Stephen Stills accompanying her on guitar.

"We helped shepherd artists to their Joni songs, the ones that their souls connected to," Carlile told the Associated Press. "This isn't easy music. This is complicated, brilliant music that is really hard to interpret."

Brandi Carlile, Joni Mitchell, and Jon Batiste perform onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Joni Mitchell at MGM Grand Marquee Ballroom on April 01, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Brandi Carlile, Joni Mitchell (accompanied by her physical therapist), and Jon Batiste at her tribute at the MGM Grand Marquee Ballroom in Las Vegas
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty

Audiences were treated to non-musical tributes as well: "I don't know how you do what you do, I just know I need it like food," Meryl Streep said in a video message. "Ever since we were both young girls. We didn't know each other, but you sang me into being. You sang my life."

Mitchell is the latest artist to be named MusiCares Person of the Year, an annual award given out by the Recording Academy to honor both artistic achievement and philanthropy. Past recipients include Aretha Franklin, Fleetwood Mac, and Dolly Parton.

In a short acceptance speech, Mitchell said, "Everybody was splendid — it just kept getting better and better and better. I can retire now and just let other people do it."

But she still joined some of the night's performers for a sing-along to her popular tracks "The Circle Game" and "Big Yellow Taxi," chiming in on the latter song.

Mitchell will also be on hand to present an award at the Grammys ceremony on Sunday. The singer stopped touring more than a decade ago and has largely kept out of the public eye since then, but she has popped up at events including the Kennedy Center Honors last December.

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