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Joni Mitchell

No female artist better typified the singer/songwriter movement of the '70s than Joni Mitchell, though her public image as the serious, sensitive woman with a guitar shortchanged her abilities, ambitions, and accomplishments. Mitchell's gift for writing personal, folk-inspired songs about the thorny side of life and love was inarguable (particularly on albums like 1970's Ladies of the Canyon and 1971's Blue), but Mitchell also brought the same smarts and eloquence to glossy pop on her commercial breakthrough, 1974's Court & Spark, and she was incorporating jazz and world music into her work long before either was fashionable in American pop music (and she also collaborated with respected jazz artists such as Charles Mingus, Pat Metheny, and Jaco Pastorius, something none of her peers accomplished). At her best, Mitchell was one of the finest and most adventurous artists of her generation, and a key inspiration to many women in music as a talent who refused to be hemmed in by boundaries of genre or gender.

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, Michigan, 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. In 2014, Mitchell helped compile her first box set anthology, Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced, which featured remastered versions of 53 songs from her back catalog, all dealing with some aspect of love and relationships. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Today my orchestra conductor said Joni Mitchell is my religion. We all started laughing, but she was serious. And I can see why... :)
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Sending love, light , and prayers your way in hopes that something will reach you the way you have reached all of us.
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I learned my Chops on Joni's Phrasing. Very few professions did -or did not admitt to, because they don't want thier own sound while I, quite proud of being able to not only hit every note;Sprano to Bass, Tenor or Scar.

"Discovered" after plaing a.d my rendition of "Blond in the Blessures"

the stigma of sounding just like her. Usually, they found her sound to be unduplicable . Right ladies? But then there was me. A classically trained Co.tralto

was I swear, the only folk-jazz assing sudden k
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Help Me...I think I'm fallin in love with you.....
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Haven't head "All I want" in years! Damn it gave me the goosies -- love you Joni!!
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May the universe heal you as you have healed millions of us. Your musical influence on others including that of other artists is profound. You have laid the groundwork for a way of musical expression unmatched by anyone. I understand painter first, musician second but how are we are we to believe your music is not your first love? May you find your way back soon it's too soon to skate away and besides it's not even Christmas. Love you, feel better friend! You know who I am. xo
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walksinwater 7
Court and Spark is rock and roll best masterpiece, and Joni is a rare jewel in rocksat times to much of the same artistry. I send Mrs. Mitchell all healing vibes that the universe has to offer. Be well, stay strong, and rock on our lady of the valley.
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I wish I had a river that I could skate away on.....my favorite.
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15 @liltunechi Radio #pandora @elliegouldi n g I'm about out the door. :/ this time your biggest mistake. I got enough to go on. I'm neither, I am human half/ half alien. So you get busy or I'm outta here. :) love B @kendalljenn e r I want you to see this.
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csprague222
2
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csprague222
2
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This is wild
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Yes!! Finally! I've been wanting to hear this song for a long time! The Blonde in the bleachers, is one of my favorites from Joni,!!
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jeremybehrin g e r
Pretty certain that You're So Square is a Buddy Holly song, not Elvis.
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Keep playing her songs! That's all I gotta say!!
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One of my very favorite songs by Joni!! This song reaches into my soul,& I totally understood her poetry within her songs~ even at age 15!!
I've spent my life letting Joni heal my heart!!
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I am still moved by her voice and music
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mewilcox5
It's life's illusions I recall. I really don't know life at all.
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why is this playing on my folk rock station?
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I hate her so much
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Love this so much !!!!!!
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I love this song sooooooo much!!!!!!!!
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I'm still Joni's # 1 Fan!!
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halsigvlh
I'm 72 and Joni's song Both Sides has been running in my head for YEARS...and I didn't even know her name. How is it possible that one of my FAVORITE singer/music i a n s was someone I couldn't even name? Typed in a few of the lyrics and up came Joni. One of the best there is!!!
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Who can I think of that refuses to be categorized more than Joni Mitchell? I think the historical record should be as poetic, evocative and transcendent as her work.
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HEJIRA rocks !!!!!
Beautiful tune, Joni @ her finest with Jaco ��
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On Aug. 17, 1979 I remember going to Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin to see Joni Mitchell. A tremendous storm went through and she was not able to perform. I recall seeing her sitting on that stage very disappointed and so reachable - I will I would of gone up to that stage and shook her hand....one of my greatest regrets. Her music has always been a major factor in my life.
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mpeeples46
I remember having tickets to see Joni with Tom Scott and LA Express at Red Rocks in early 70's. It rained like hell and the show was postponed until the next day in Denver. Somehow, while waiting in line, a dude said there was a side door open, so we rushed over there and got 2nd row seats for an incredible show. I believe Miles of Aisles included some songs from that period. What a musician she is and has always been.
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Her magical music and insight got me through high school, college, my first crappy job, a really crappy divorce, everything else that was good, bad, and ugly. And now I listen to her with my granddaughte r . No one like her.
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Joni Mitchell voice is amazing enjoy listening to her as i lay and watch the stars dance in the nighty sky
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LOVE HER! Favorite song is Wish i had a river i could skate away on
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Joni is a magical artist. I would listen to her with my 8 year old (now 43) son while reading her lyrics to him. Her music is timeless.
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Wonderful timeless
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Brilliant
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Joni changed by life.
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Joni is the greatest American singer/songw r i t e r . Period
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I love Joni Mitchell. My wife know it.
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bill9163
N
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She's. too busy being free....
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dottiemoore4
Joni is a special and talented lady with uncanny intuition that clearly motivated her songs. They continue to blow me away, when ever I listen to them! Enjoyed Joni's interview on YouTube the other day:) Thanks for the great bio of Joni, Ankeny!
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What is the name of the movie special of her life?
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joe.n.richar d
The movie special of her life will put tears in your eyes...
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No one can write songs like Joni!
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jkleven
Absolute Genius . . .. 'nuff said.
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Joni Mitchell is still with us and hopefully still has some amazing music to give us.
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Pleasant memories of the seventies. My older sister used to play her albums and sing along, she is gone now, sad but fond nonetheless.
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Abbee.....a young man long ago introduced me to joni.she captured our hearts.the young man lost his life too soon but his spirit and memory are with me always through ms.Mitchell.
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amy1922
Her music, voice, and words led me through my teenage years. She is and continues to be an inspiration. Thank you, Joni.
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Besides writing playing and singing some of the most soul deep poetry songs of all time
Joni is one eloquent bad a**! Such love and respect for her uncompromise d principals
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