The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize of Popular Music, in its 16 years has reliably been a solid night of tribute to a deserving artist and an anticipated D.C. event even after it moved from the intimate confines of the East Room of the White House to the nearby Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall. 

This year’s event, though, was even more anticipated, building on the somewhat magical re-emergence of a deeply influential artist whose work has touched generations. 

After being stricken with a life-threatening aneurysm eight years ago that put her in a coma, Joni Mitchell has improved to the point where she could again talk, walk and now sing, plying her deeper, jazz-tinged vocals to her timeless songs and American standards.

She surprised and delighted those who came to sing her songs at a MusiCares event last spring by joining in on one singalong and drew international headlines with her remarkable and widely-reported 15-song surprise set alongside Brandi Carlile at Newport last summer.