Joni Mitchell’s Chapel Hill Christmas

Dec 23, 2019

This time of year families come back together and share stories.  For Will Blythe, a writer who grew up in Chapel Hill there was one piece of family history that had him convinced he, and the town of Chapel Hill, was connected to this seasonal classic by Joni Mitchell.

The Blythe family is old Chapel Hill and in the 70s, frequently socialized with James Taylor’s family.  James left Chapel Hill as a teenager, but came back home for the holidays. 

One year, James was home and he’d brought a girlfriend.  Will Blythe says his parents remembered going caroling with the Taylor family that year.

“They went and apparently had a grand time,” said Will Blythe in an interview from his home in New York City.  “I remember asking who was the girl, this would have been the 1970s, and they said she really did have a beautiful voice but ah I don’t know maybe Joni something. I remember saying Joni Mitchell?”

When the Oxford American invited Will to write an article about James Taylor for their December music issue about North Carolina he started looking into it.  He called a fellow journalist who also grew up in Chapel Hill.  “I found out that it was all true,” said Blythe.  “My parents had gone Christmas caroling through Morgan Creek with James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.”

Joni Mitchell’s song “River” was released in 1971, the year after her visit to Chapel Hill with James Taylor.