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Morning Glory on the Vine by Joni Mitchell.Supplied

The guitarist Robben Ford once described Joni Mitchell as a little girl with crayons. “She just had that freedom.”

Her playful emancipation is displayed on the pages of Morning Glory on the Vine, Mitchell’s new book of early-career poems, drawings, paintings and handwritten lyrics. The pretty collection is a polished version of a limited-edition book Mitchell gave to loved ones in 1971. “All my friends were kind of nouveau riche, so buying Christmas presents was going to be really difficult,” Mitchell writes in the foreword to Morning Glory on the Vine.

Mitchell often expressed herself in visual terms, whether lyrically ("The sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses,” she sang on Chelsea Morning) or in conversation. "Fibres in a variety of colours protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm,” she once said about her puzzling battle with Morgellons syndrome.

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Portrait of Graham Nash. From MORNING GLORY ON THE VINE: Early Songs and Drawings by Joni Mitchell. Copyright © 2019 by Joni Mitchell. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved

Her record albums often included her artwork; Mitchell’s version of herself as Van Gogh, for example, adorns the cover of 1994′s Turbulent Indigo. “I have always thought of myself as a painter derailed by circumstance,” she told The Globe and Mail in 2000, upon her exhibit at Saskatoon’s Mendel Art Gallery. “I sing my sorrow, and I paint my joy.”

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Morning Glory on the Vine is a warm, water-coloured invitation to Mitchell’s Laurel Canyon years, covering a period that saw the release of albums that included 1971′s landmark Blue. “It’s a been a long time coming in making this book public," writes Mitchell, who suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015 but has recently begun making public appearances.

Lyrics of familiar songs and unreleased material sit aside pages given to non-annotated illustrations and portraits of a calico cat and people such as Graham Nash and Neil Young. Think of the book as an artful expression of friendship, a personal time capsule unearthed, a quaint gesture from a pre-Instagram era.

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Self-portrait of Joni Mitchell. From MORNING GLORY ON THE VINE: Early Songs and Drawings by Joni Mitchell. Copyright © 2019 by Joni Mitchell. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved

This was the cover to the Joni Mitchell Songbook: Complete Volume, No. 1 (1966-1970). Opposite the self-portrait in Morning Glory on the Vine are the lyrics to Like Veils, Said Lorraine, an outtake from the recording sessions that yielded 1972′s For The Roses:I don’t want to grow narrow and foolish in old age/ And miss all that beauty, that wisdom and the grace." The making of the For the Roses album was a time of self-examination for Mitchell, who retreated from the demands of stardom to Northern British Columbia forestry, where she was building a house. “There was moonlight coming down on black water, it was a very solitary period," Mitchell once explained. “It was melancholy exile. There was a sense of failure to it.”

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The lyrics of This Flight Tonight. From MORNING GLORY ON THE VINE: Early Songs and Drawings by Joni Mitchell. Copyright © 2019 by Joni Mitchell. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved

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From MORNING GLORY ON THE VINE: Early Songs and Drawings by Joni Mitchell. Copyright © 2019 by Joni Mitchell. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reservedHoughton Mifflin Harcourt

On the song This Flight Tonight, with Mitchell’s high, fluttering vocals set against a gutsy open-tuned strum, the singer-songwriter is on an airplane over Las Vegas, “drinking sweet Champagne, got the headphones up high/ Can’t numb you out.” She regrets leaving her lover: “Turn this crazy bird around, I shouldn’t have got on this flight tonight.” How many songs has Mitchell written on (or about) an airplane? On the pages preceding the lyrics to This Flight Tonight (a song later turned on its head by Scottish hard rockers Nazareth) are a painting with the same name and the words to something else called A Plane is a Bird, written on May 28, 1969. “A plane is a bird/ That when singing has no soul.”

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Portrait of Elliot Roberts. From MORNING GLORY ON THE VINE: Early Songs and Drawings by Joni Mitchell. Copyright © 2019 by Joni Mitchell. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved

An undated portrait of Elliot Roberts, the gentle, protective and ego-stroking manager of such rock stars as Neil Young, David Crosby and Mitchell, whom he took on as a client after a tip from Buffy Sainte-Marie. Roberts suggested Mitchell move to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles, and managed her until 1985. He died, at the age of 76, on June 21, 2019.

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