Her song “Woodstock” is now remembered as one of the most iconic musical artifacts of the late 1960s American counterculture, but it’s worth remembering that it was written by a Canadian artist who did not perform at (or even attend) Woodstock. (…)
While I never tire of pointing out hippie fakery, one could argue that her basing “Woodstock” on what she saw on TV news reports makes the song more “authentic,” since that’s how 99.99% of the Western world (has) experienced it too.
To this day, Mitchell epitomizes the confessional singer-songwriter, whose art dramatizes her own experience. This musical mode is now often justly criticized for its over-valuation of authenticity, sincerity, and the natural. But if the naive singer-songwriter assumes that the “self” can simply be presented in song—in a process not complicated by recording, mass mediation, or the pop marketplace—Mitchell’s own self-performance always contained depths of complex artistry and artifice.
But “honesty” in art is, of course, also an aesthetic effect. If this child of Saskatchewan seemed to associate Canada with childhood, pure self-expression, and the natural—with those bird songs of her youth—she was at least as much an “Americanized” modern rock performer.