advertisement
Music

Joni Mitchell Puts a Jazzy and Resilient Spin on Elton John's 'I'm Still Standing'

The Canadian legend paid tribute to Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin as they were awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the U.S. Library of Congress last month, and even changed some of the lyrics.

Joni Mitchell performing "I'm Still Standing"

Joni Mitchell performing "I'm Still Standing"

YouTube/EltonStuff

One legend paid tribute to another at this year's Gershwin Prize ceremony. Joni Mitchell put her original spin on Elton John's 1983 anthem "I'm Still Standing," honouring the iconic performer.

Elton John and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin were awarded this year's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the U.S. Library of Congress last month, and with the ceremony airing on PBS this week, fans can finally see how the U.K. hitmakers — John has nine Billboard Hot 100 No.1's to his name — were honoured at the event.


Mitchell, last year's Gershwin Prize recipient, celebrated the duo by taking their upbeat pop-rock song and turning it into a soulful jazz standard. Accompanied by frequent collaborators Brandi Carlile and Blake Mills, as well as Elton John bandmate Davey Johnstone and Eurythmics vocalist Annie Lennox, Mitchell loosened up the original's tight beat, giving it a casual swing. Complete with finger snaps and an accordion, the performance sounds like it came straight out of a cabaret.

advertisement

The biggest change Mitchell made, though, is lyrical. She rewrote both verses of "I'm Still Standing," removing some of the romantic bitterness of the original to instead emphasize a sense of gratitude and optimism. "My life gets better for me every day / and I'm still standing while you just fade away," Mitchell sang in the second verse, replacing lyrics like "The threats you made were meant to cut me down / And if our love was just a circus, you'd be a clown by now."

Introducing Mitchell, Carlile noted that the song has particular resonance for the singer-songwriter, and that Mitchell received express permission from John and Taupin to rework the lyrics so as to suit her better. "Which is honestly the most Joni Mitchell thing I've ever heard of," Carlile quipped.

Though Carlile didn't specify why the song is special for Mitchell, the Canadian musician suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015, forcing her to relearn how to walk, speak and perform. In 2022, she made a surprise comeback appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, and has performed increasingly frequently since, with an appearance at the Grammys this year and upcoming headlining performances in L.A.

advertisement

Unlike her Grammys performance, where she was seated in a regal throne, Mitchell stood for her tribute to John and Taupin, swaying confidently with the beat while John smiled and clapped along in the crowd. Mitchell's performance adds an extra layer of meaning to John and Taupin's hit, emphasizing the ways in which pop songs can help lift us up when we're down.

The ceremony also featured tributes from Metallica, Garth Brooks, Charlie Puth, Maren Morris, Billy Porter and more. The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honours artists whose careers have promoted song as an artistic form and a mode of cultural and personal expression. Other past winners include Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Carole King and Stevie Wonder.

Mitchell's performance, available briefly online before it was removed yesterday, is now back on YouTube. Check it out below.

advertisement
Gordon Lightfoot
Country Music Association of Ontario

Gordon Lightfoot

Latest News

Music Biz Headlines: Gordon Lightfoot Honoured, Celine Dion Won't Stop

This week's compendium of stories from across Canada and beyond also includes summer concerts across Canada, the potential U.S. TikTok ban, AI and more.

Rush's Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson Reunite to Pay Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot at Massey Hall: Watch

The singer and guitarist of the immensely popular Canadian trio joined house band Blue Rodeo for a performance of "The Way I Feel," honouring the iconic singer-songwriter Lightfoot, who died last year at 84. – Rosie Long Decter, Billboard Canada

keep readingShow less
advertisement