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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


Love this so much !!!!!!
I love this song sooooooo much!!!!!!!!
I'm still Joni's # 1 Fan!!
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!!!
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.
HEJIRA rocks !!!!!
Beautiful tune, Joni @ her finest with Jaco ��
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 of my greatest regrets. Her music has always been a major factor in my life.
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.
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.
Joni Mitchell voice is amazing enjoy listening to her as i lay and watch the stars dance in the nighty sky
LOVE HER! Favorite song is Wish i had a river i could skate away on
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.
Wonderful timeless
Joni changed by life.
Joni is the greatest American singer/songw r i t e r . Period
I love Joni Mitchell. My wife know it.
She's. too busy being free....
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!
What is the name of the movie special of her life?
joe.n.richar d
The movie special of her life will put tears in your eyes...
No one can write songs like Joni!
Absolute Genius . . .. 'nuff said.
Joni Mitchell is still with us and hopefully still has some amazing music to give us.
Pleasant memories of the seventies. My older sister used to play her albums and sing along, she is gone now, sad but fond nonetheless.
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.
Her music, voice, and words led me through my teenage years. She is and continues to be an inspiration. Thank you, Joni.
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
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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