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Joni Mitchell

When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century. Uncompromising and iconoclastic, Mitchell confounded expectations at every turn; restlessly innovative, her music evolved from deeply personal folk stylings into pop, jazz, avant-garde, and even world music, presaging the multicultural experimentation of the 1980s and 1990s by over a decade. Fiercely independent, her work steadfastly resisted the whims of both mainstream audiences and the male-dominated recording industry. While Mitchell's records never sold in the same numbers enjoyed by contemporaries like Carole King, Janis Joplin, or Aretha Franklin, none experimented so recklessly with their artistic identities or so bravely explored territory outside of the accepted confines of pop music, resulting in a creative legacy which paved the way for performers ranging from Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde to Madonna and Courtney Love.

Born Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort McLeod, Alberta, Canada, on November 7, 1943, she was stricken with polio at the age of nine; while recovering in a children's hospital, she began her performing career by singing to the other patients. After later teaching herself to play guitar with the aid of a Pete Seeger instruction book, she went off to art college, and became a fixture on the folk music scene around Alberta. After relocating to Toronto, she married folksinger Chuck Mitchell in 1965, and began performing under the name Joni Mitchell.

A year later the couple moved to Detroit, MI, but separated soon after; Joni remained in the Motor City, however, and won significant press acclaim for her burgeoning songwriting skills and smoky, distinctive vocals, leading to a string of high-profile performances in New York City. There she became a cause célèbre among the media and other performers; after she signed to Reprise in 1967, David Crosby offered to produce her debut record, a self-titled acoustic effort that appeared the following year. Her songs also found great success with other singers: in 1968, Judy Collins scored a major hit with the Mitchell-penned "Both Sides Now," while Fairport Convention covered "Eastern Rain" and Tom Rush recorded "The Circle Game."

Thanks to all of the outside exposure, Mitchell began to earn a strong cult following; her 1969 sophomore effort, Clouds, reached the Top 40, while 1970's Ladies of the Canyon sold even better on the strength of the single "Big Yellow Taxi." It also included her anthemic composition "Woodstock," a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Still, the commercial and critical approval awarded her landmark 1971 record Blue was unprecedented: a luminous, starkly confessional set written primarily during a European vacation, the album firmly established Mitchell as one of pop music's most remarkable and insightful talents.

Predictably, she turned away from Blue's incandescent folk with 1972's For the Roses, the first of the many major stylistic turns she would take over the course of her daring career. Backed by rock-jazz performer Tom Scott, Mitchell's music began moving into more pop-oriented territory, a change typified by the single "You Turn Me On (I'm a Radio)," her first significant hit. The follow-up, 1974's classic Court and Spark, was her most commercially successful outing: a sparkling, jazz-accented set, it reached the number two spot on the U.S. album charts and launched three hit singles -- "Help Me," "Free Man in Paris," and "Raised on Robbery."

After the 1974 live collection Miles of Aisles, Mitchell emerged in 1975 with The Hissing of Summer Lawns, a bold, almost avant-garde record that housed her increasingly complex songs in experimental, jazz-inspired settings; "The Jungle Line" introduced the rhythms of African Burundi drums, placing her far ahead of the pop world's mid-'80s fascination with world music. 1976's Hejira, recorded with Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius, smoothed out the music's more difficult edges while employing minimalist techniques; Mitchell later performed the album's first single, "Coyote," at the Band's Last Waltz concert that Thanksgiving.

Her next effort, 1977's two-record set Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, was another ambitious move, a collection of long, largely improvisational pieces recorded with jazz players Larry Carlton and Wayne Shorter, Chaka Khan, and a battery of Latin percussionists. Shortly after the record's release, Mitchell was contacted by the legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus, who invited her to work with him on a musical interpretation of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. Mingus, who was suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, sketched out a series of melodies to which Mitchell added lyrics; however, Mingus died on January 5, 1979, before the record was completed. After Mitchell finished their collaboration on her own, she recorded the songs under the title Mingus, which was released the summer after the jazz titan's passing.

Following her second live collection, 1980's Shadows and Light, Mitchell returned to pop territory for 1982's Wild Things Run Fast; the first single, a cover of the Elvis Presley hit "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care," became her first chart single in eight years. Shortly after the album's release, she married bassist/sound engineer Larry Klein, who became a frequent collaborator on much of her subsequent material, including 1985's synth-driven Dog Eat Dog, co-produced by Thomas Dolby. Mitchell's move into electronics continued with 1988's Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, featuring guests Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, and Billy Idol.

Mitchell returned to her roots with 1991's Night Ride Home, a spare, stripped-down collection spotlighting little more than her voice and acoustic guitar. Prior to recording 1994's Turbulent Indigo, she and Klein separated, although he still co-produced the record, which was her most acclaimed work in years. In 1996, she compiled a pair of anthologies, Hits and Misses, which collected her chart successes as well as underappreciated favorites. A new studio album, Taming the Tiger, followed in 1998. Both Sides Now, a collection of standards, followed in early 2000.

Two years later, Mitchell resurfaced with the double-disc release Travelogue. She announced in October 2002 that this would be her last album ever, for she'd grown tired of the industry. She told W magazine that she intended to retire. She also claimed she would never sign another corporate label deal and in Rolling Stone blasted the recording industry for being "a cesspool." By the time Travelogue appeared a month later, Mitchell had simmered down and her plans to call it quits had been axed. Numerous compilations and remasters appeared between 2002 and 2006, culminating in the release of the independent Shine in 2007. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

In 1982 or 83. A lovely young lady dragged me to a Joni Mitchell concert. I had low expectations . She blew me away. 3 sets all different, ALL rocked! Her and piano, her and guitar with 3 more musicians and then a final set with 14 or 15 pieces... Brass, extra drums, strings. I remain a convert after one evening at the Man Music center in Philly. Thanx Paige :-)
Unquestionab l y one of the greats, If you haven't heard Shine you should find it. Check out the credits she virtually plays everything. Last time I saw her was when she toured with an Orchestra just after Both Sides Now, I was moved to tears.. amazing!
That's a hike
One of my favorite artists in any genre.
She casts a lovely light.
She sings like an angel.
absolutely transported to another time while listening to her...feels like I'm there
My Voice
tulips9498
Joni u embody EVERYTHING!! ! ! !
Her music is timeless. One of the greats!
Joni supported me through many years. I sang her songs and others for a living. She felt like family to me, helped me through those hard years of finding myself. I will love her forever
This album helped me to recover from a very bad time in my early 20's. Thank you Joni, an insperation for so many...
myrna.comsto c k
I discovered Joni when I was 21. She ruined me for so many other artists .Few others could approach the complexity of her melodies and lyrics. I feel like she wrote the musical accompanimen t to my life.
mewilcox5
One of my favorite music artists of all time. Songwriting that is so true, personal and evocative... h e r voice is strange and beautiful.
Ever hear her sing jazz with Herbi Hancock? Check it out
I cannot fathom how someone could consider her the worst singer ever. Her voice is absolutely stunning, true there are rough edged turns of verse for her, but almost no-one has a magical and pure a jazz lilt as Mrs. Mitchell. For proof, listen to the Orchestral version of Both Sides Now from the mid 2000's, absolutely stunning.
she is the worst singer ever
@dng83: Absolutely! You couldn't have articulated that better!
cjcjcjb
I learned more about women from her songs than any other source except my wife of 25 years
I love your song big yellow taxi
dng83
agree with the posts re: greatest songwriter/s i n g e r /artist of our time. Her insights into life and relationship s are spot on and her ability to articulate them in her lyrics is amazing.
LOVE Joni Mitchell.
poohlovehone y 0 7 0 7
She's an okay singer. :D
o.O. She's actually a really good singer
XD
btiersten
lose the female in the (blank) most influential artist description of greatest... she is greatest and female...
not fair.all those looks AND all that talent.
andreanna.me t r u l a s
There are singer/songw r i t e r s and Then , there is Joni Mitchell !! In a class completely and utterly by Herself...Sh e stands alone...No peers as far as the eye can see ...xoxo
I agree with one of the comments below. Why say female? Either Joni is one of the most important artists of the 20th century, or she isn't. She definitely is, of course - but what does gender have to do with it?
I was introduced to the Joni Mitchell Blue album in the early 70s. Quite literally saved my life. Going through several years of tough mental times. Ms Mitchell's insight to how people think and react was amazing. Fell in love with all her music. My greatest wish is to someday meet her just to say thanks.
I love her! I remember this from Step Up Revolution!
jeffreymqs64 1
I've been making over $350 a week from home using this site called BLUDOS.COM basically you take surveys for cash. You can do this for free as well.
deborahkgarz a
Joni, your music affects me like no one else's. It touches my soul each time I hear it. I've loved you since I was 19, which was in 1970. You're simply my favorite of all time. I thank you for your insight and sharing.
I'll follow 4 a follow
claricentp91 7
I've been making over $350 a week from home using this site called BLUDOS.COM basically you take surveys for cash. You can do this for free as well.
shawnnavuz71 1
If you wanna make some extra cash from home you can go to BLUDOS.COM and Click on Start Today then go from there. You don't need to pay to start.
Joni Mitchell is the absolute best, her music transforms me every time I listen to it!!!
You have carried me through my early twenties and into my early sixties and will go on- huge influence in my life and how I feel about myself. Your lyrics can bring me to tears and I just keep listening!!! Thank you, Joanie. maj
HI JONI!

SORRY I MISSPELLED YOUR NAME.
YOU ARE THE BEST!

MARK
WE LOVE YOU, JOANIE!

MARK
Dan Patrick mentioned her on his radio show.....he loves her !
BEYOND AWESOME!

MARK
Kiss your hand, say your crush. Post this on 2 other songs then look at your hand
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of you life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually work
I truly agree with mywaterdr's comment below..Laura Nyro too... Best, Jack D.
Personal to Pandora: Could you please rewrite the description of Joni Mitchell in the Bio box to...may stand as the most important and influential recording artist, etc. Take out the female part, she stands alone like every great musician/com p o s e r that ever lived!
I'm still waiting to hear something from Hissing of Summer Lawns
Joni is fantastic and I am happy that Pandora gave her credit for a song she wrote, unlike at least 2 other mistakes I have seen today for varied artists....
I love to listen to Joni, takes me back to my twenties, such a good time for me.
sammymocha
An interesting thing about fine art.. the effect it has on us is completely non-verbal! That is, we can't describe it in words, no matter how potent and beautiful. Critics talk around it, and we try to write here what Joni means to us. There is but one other artist in her league: Sandy Denny.
The song Help Me by Joni Mitchell is a masterpiece. K.D. Lang's performance of Help Me, as a cover of another artists song, believe it or not, is also amazing. This song will probably be played for centuries to come.
Ms.Mitchell has always been a favorite of mine. My eldest sister gave me her copy of 'Clouds' in 1969 and I was amazed at the lyrics, the sound of her voice and how she seemed to be singing just for me. Court and Spark was a huge commercial success, and I love the album, but I feel 'Ladies of the Canyon' is my favorite. Joni is an eclectic artist and it makes me love her work all the more.
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