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Mitchell, Joni

Joni Mitchell

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

Struck Down by Polio

Banging on Stardoms Door

Recognition in the 1990s

Polio Returns

Selected discography

Sources

The pop arena is a harsh world, really, mused Joni Mitchell in an interview with Nicholas Jennings for Macleans. It moves you up and down arbitrarily, regardless of the quality of your work. Mitchells comments reflect the sometimes bittersweet nature of her long and varied musical career. Hailed by the New Rolling Stone Record Guide as the most significant of the confessional singer/songwritersafter the release of her first few albums, Mitchell saw her critical and popular audience trickle away during the mid-1970s and 1980s. Yet by the mid-1990s she had come full circle, boosted by the strength of two new albums and a critical reevaluation of much of her 70s output.

Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson on November 7, 1943, in a remote town on the cold, windswept plains of northwestern Canada. The artist remembers where her family lived in the hardscrabble hamlets of Alberta, bereft of creature comforts. Every house was weathered-out and derelict-looking with no paint on it, she told Billboard contributor Timothy White. Drinking water was delivered, and bathing water was captured off the eaves of the houses. The only recreation I had was waving from our living-room picture window in Maidstone to the steam locomotive that blew its whistle at the bend in the track as it entered townbut at least that gave me a curiosity about going places.

Struck Down by Polio

Mitchells childhood, though, was a troubled one, for she was beset by a series of ailments that battered her small body. At three my appendix burst, and they rushed me to the hospital, she told White. Then I had German measles and red measles, one of which nearly killed me. At eight I had chicken pox and scarlet fever, plus the arbitrary tonsillitis. The darkest shadowthatfell over her childhood, though, was polio, and as she indicated to Vogue writer Charles Gandee in 1995, the specter of that disease continues to haunt her. I had polio at the age of nine. My spine was twisted up like a train wreck. I couldnt walk. I was paralyzed. Forty years later it comes back with a vengeance. Its like multiple sclerosis. It means your electrical system burns out and your muscles begin to atrophy. It means impending paraplegia.

After an excruciatingly painful recovery, Mitchell attended high school. Her mediocre academic performance was offset to some degree by her blossoming passion for music, painting, and art. I was always the school artist, she told People contributor Michael Small. I did the backdrops for plays [and] illustrated the yearbook and the school newspaper. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at the Alberta College of Art in

For the Record

Born Roberta Joan Anderson, November 7, 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada; daughter of William A. (a grocery store manager) and Myrtle M. (a teacher; maiden name, McKee) Anderson; married Chuck Mitchell (a musician), June 1965 (divorced c. 1967); married Larry Klein (a musician and producer), 1982 (divorced 1992); children: one daughter. Education: Attended Alberta College of Art, Calgary, Alberta.

Worked as a singer in folk clubs while living in Toronto, Detroit, and New York City, 1964-69; released first album, Joni Mitchell, 1968; first chart single, Big Yellow Taxi, released in 1970 on Ladies of the Canyon; released Blue, 1971; turned increasingly to jazz-influenced work, late 1970s; returned to public performance after six years, 1994.

Selected awards Grammy Award for best folk performance, 1970, for Clouds; two Grammy Awards (including best pop album), 1995, for Turbulent Indigo; Orville H. Gibson Award, 1995; Billboard Century Award, 1995; Polar Music Prize, 1996.

Addresses: Record company Reprise Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91510.

Calgary. She left Calgary a year later and headed east, eventually landing in Toronto. Shortly after Mitchell made her first tentative appearances on the citys fledgling folk music circuit, an unplanned pregnancy proved to be a jarring interruption in her life. I was twenty, she told White, and it was a crush with a fellow painter, and I got pregnant immediately. To be pregnant and unmarried in 1964 was like you killed somebody. She subsequently met Chuck Mitchell, an older folksinger, who said he would take us on, she said in her interview with Gandee. I was kind of railroaded. We were never suitable. I went down the aisle saying, I can get out of this.

The couple, who married a month after they met, subsequently took up residence in Detroit, but the marriage disintegrated within about two years. Emotionally drained and financially bare, Mitchell also gave up her daughter for adoption. Ive never seen the child since, although Ive always thought of her, she later told White. For years I didnt talk about this because of my parents, although I did leak little things, little messages into my songs for the child, just to let her know I was thinking about her.

Mitchell moved to Manhattan, where she threw herself into establishing a place on the local music scene. Her reputation grew, but work was still sometimes elusive. The year Dylan went electric (1965) the folk clubs started closing all over the country, she told Susan Gordon Lydon in the New York Times. It was like an epidemic.In those days, if you only played acoustical guitar, club owners treated you as though you were a dinosaur.

She persevered, though, and with the help of Byrds vocalist David Crosby she eventually signed with Reprise Records. Her debut album, 1968s Joni Mitchell, was produced by Crosby, although Mitchell concedes that his influence was actually fairly minimal. The album, a simple affair that featured Mitchells soaring singing voice and skillful acoustic guitar work, garnered immediate attention. Clouds, her second album, explored the same terrain as her first work: romanticism, emotional confusion, and other affairs of the heart.

Banging on Stardoms Door

A major impetus for Mitchells work at this time, contended Dave Laing and Phil Hardy in the Encyclopedia of Rock, was the struggle to make sense of a personal failure to find lasting satisfaction in any of her well-publicized relationships. Mitchells 1970 release, Ladies of the Canyon, showed that she was continuing to develop musically. While her daring vocals and crisp acoustic guitar playing continued to anchor her sound, additional instrumentation effectively complemented several of the albums songs.

With 1971s Blue, Mitchells already shining critical reputation took another giant step forward. The album featured such classics as The Last Time I Saw Richard, California, This Flight Tonight, and the title track, and stunned reviewers marveled at the honesty, longing, and intelligence that underpinned the entire effort. Rolling Stone reviewer Timothy Crouse wrote that on Blue, Mitchell has matched her popular music skills with the purity and honesty of what was once called folk music and through the blend she has given us some of the most beautiful moments in recent popular music. White later commented that the resoundingly intimate Blue stretched the tape measure for unfathomed personal inquiry until it snapped free of the spool. The deeper Mitchell delved, the higher her untethered singing flew, trembling with tortured liberty.

The subject matter of Mitchells songs, thoughand their inevitable coupling to her romantic relationships with such well-known artists as Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and Graham Nashled some magazines to pay greater attention to her personal life than her musical output. Mitchell began to explore different musical directions and less introspective subjects for her songs, only to find her visibility in the entertainment world slowly ebb away. Albums such as For the Roses (1972), which featured the hit Turn Me On, Im a Radio ; Court and Spark (1974), which included Help Me and Free Man in Paris ; and Hejira (1976) received hearty words of appreciation, but others were treated less kindly. Rolling Stone even called Mitchells 1975 release, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the worst record of the year.

Bold and creative experiments, such as her tribute to dying jazz great Charles Mingus on Mingus (1979), met with indifference or critical barbs from many quarters, and by the early 1980s Mitchells popularity had fallen significantly. I lost some people when I went from singing / to singing you. I lost some people when I added a band, she explained to Gandee. Another thing was that in the eighties we moved into a particularly unromantic period in music. Videos had just begun, and they had a tendency to feature cold women with dark lipstick and stilettos grinding mens hands into the ground. It was an antilove period, and my workWild Things Run Fast, in particularwas a joyous celebration of love, which basically made people sick. Ironically, though, her fading in the public eye served to liberate Mitchell. Once I realized that I had fallen from favor, I decided to stretch out. I cant pander to public opinion. Besides, the fact is no matter how talented you are, you fall out of favor. Indeed, Mitchell never appeared to question the value of her output; as she told Gandee, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are my real peers. Were the poets of that generation.

In 1982 Mitchell married record producer Larry Klein, and over the course of the decade she released three fine albums on Geffen Records Wild Things Run Fast, Dog Eat Dog, and Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm that were largely ignored. Undeterred by the tepid reception of each album, Mitchell continued to explore new musical avenues while also indulging her lifelong passion for painting. (A number of Mitchells albums feature her own artwork on covers or inner sleeves.) Night Ride Home, Mitchells 1991 release, received warm reviews. The album seemed to spark a slow stir in the music community as some people questioned the songwriters long exile in the musical wilderness. Three years later, Mitchell unveiled Turbulent Indigo, the seventeenth album in her long and varied career. Entertainment Weekly contributor Linda Sanders echoed the sentiments of many when she called the album the distilled essence of everything shes done before. As critics raved about the musical and lyrical depth of the album, Mitchell assumed a visibility in the industry she had not seen since the mid-1970s.

Recognition in the 1990s

In retrospect, critics returned to Mitchells earlier albums, and some began to give greater thought to her place in pop music history. Sanders, for example, conceded that all shes really managed to deliver in the course of sixteen albums is one of the most vivid and delicious chronicles of a womans life thats ever been produced in any medium anytime, anyplace. In Guitar Player, Martin Simpson called her perhaps the most influential female guitarist of the century, and a huge influx of young female singer/songwriters cited the impact of Mitchells music on their lives. When asked about many of these artists, though, Mitchell is blunt. There are dozens of them, but I dont hear much there, frankly, she remarked to Simpson. When it comes to knowing where to put the chords, how to tell a story, and how to build to a chorus, most of them cant touch me.

The early 1990s were transitional years for Mitchell in many ways. While recognition of her talent ascended once again, her personal life was rocked by several blows. She divorced Klein in 1992, though she noted in her interview with Gandee that their relationship endures, albeit in a different form. Weve come through this thing. Its poignant sometimes. We went out the other night. He was playing with Shawn Colvin, and they invited me to come down and sit in. You have to readjust. I imagine that it will be a lifetime friendship.

Polio Returns

Mitchells childhood bout with polio also returned to haunt her. She admitted to White in 1995 that she suffers from post-polio syndrome, a malady wherein the wiring in my central nervous system is overtaxed, and when I dont conserve my energy, the disease manifests itself in loss of animation. Last year and the year before I was experiencing a lot of muscle aches, joint aches, and extreme sensitivity to temperature changes.

Despite her physical difficulties, however, Mitchell has launched a cautious return to concert performing. In 1994 she performed at the Edmonton Folk Festival, playing her first full-length set in six years before an appreciative audience of fans and relatives. It had a homecoming kind of feeling, remarked Mitchell in Guitar Player. She has turned to a variety of medical treatments to stave off her illness, and she remained defiant about her chances in the mid-1990s. The polio survivor is a stubborn creature. Im in good spirits, and high spirits is how I beat it before, she told Gandee.

In the mid-1990s Mitchell received several notable awards, further indication that she had come full circle in the eyes of the music community. She won two Grammys (including one for best pop album) for Turbulent Indigo and the 1996 Royal Swedish Academy of Musics Polar Music Prize. Late in 1995, Mitchell was named the recipient of Billboard magazines Century Award. The magazine cited Mitchell as particularly deserving of the honor, a sentiment echoed by award presenter Peter Gabriel. In his introduction of Mitchell during the award ceremony, Gabriel noted: This writers work has been a regular inspiration. With her melodies, harmonies, guitar tunings, lyrics, extraordinary voice, and arrangements, she has continuously and courageously experimented, putting substance before style, passion before packaging, and all the time creating wonderful pictures with her songs. When I think of her music, I think of imagination, invention, intelligence, and most important, a lot of soul.

Selected discography

Joni Mitchell, Reprise, 1968.

Clouds, Reprise, 1969.

Ladies of the Canyon, Reprise, 1970.

Blue, Reprise, 1971.

For the Roses, Asylum, 1972.

Court and Spark, Asylum, 1974.

Miles of Aisles, Asylum, 1974.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Asylum, 1975.

Hejira, Asylum, 1976.

Don Juans Reckless Daughter, Asylum, 1977.

Mingus, Asylum, 1979.

Shadows and Light, Asylum, 1980.

Wild Things Run Fast, Geffen, 1982.

Dog Eat Dog, Geffen, 1985.

Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, Geffen, 1988.

Night Ride Home, Geffen, 1991.

Turbulent Indigo, Reprise, 1994.

Hits, Reprise, 1996.

Misses, Reprise, 1996.

Sources

Books

Hardy, Phil, and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, Schirmer Books, 1988.

Marsh, Dave, and John Swenson, New Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House, 1983.

Periodicals

Billboard, December 9, 1995; December 16, 1995.

Entertainment Weekly, March 1, 1991.

Guitar Player, February 1995, p. 55.

Macleans, June 1974; October 31, 1994.

New York Times, April 20, 1969; November 7, 1982.

People, December 16, 1985.

Record World, March 6, 1976.

Rolling Stone, August 5, 1971; October 15, 1992; December 15, 1994.

Time, November 28, 1994.

Vogue, April 1995, p. 191.

Kevin Hillstrom

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Mitchell, Joni

Joni Mitchell

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

Faced Difficult Recovery from Polio

Banging on Stardom’s Door

Recognition in the 1990s

Polio Returned

Considered Retirement

Selected discography

Sources

“The pop arena is a harsh world, really,” mused Joni Mitchell in an interview with Nicholas Jennings for Maclean’s. “It moves you up and down arbitrarily, regardless of the quality of your work.” Mitchell’s comments reflect the sometimes bittersweet nature of her long and varied musical career. Hailed by the New Rolling Stone Record Guide as “the most significant of the confessional singer/songwriters” after the release of her first few albums, Mitchell saw her critical and popular audience trickle away during the mid-1970s and 1980s. Yet by the mid-1990s she had come full circle, boosted by the strength of acclaimed new albums and a critical reevaluation ofmuch her ‘70s output.

Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson on November 7, 1943, in a remote town on the cold, windswept plains of northwestern Canada. The artist remembers where her family lived in the hardscrabble hamlets of Alberta, bereft of creature comforts. Mitchell’s childhood was a troubled one, for she was beset by a series of ailments that battered her small body. “At three my appendix burst, and they rushed me to the hospital,” she told White. “Then I had German measles and red measles, one of which nearly killed me. At eight I had chicken pox and scarlet fever, plus the arbitrary tonsillitis.” The darkest shadow that fell over her childhood, though, was polio, and as she indicated to Vogue writer Charles Gandee in 1995, the specter of that disease continues to haunt her. “I had polio at the age of nine. My spine was twisted up like a train wreck. I couldn’t walk. I was paralyzed. Forty years later it comes back with a vengeance. It’s like multiple sclerosis. It means your electrical system burns out and your muscles begin to atrophy. It means impending paraplegia.”

Faced Difficult Recovery from Polio

After an excruciatingly painful recovery, Mitchell attended high school. Her mediocre academic performance was offset to some degree by her blossoming passion for music, painting, and art. “I was always the school artist,” she told People contributor Michael Small. “I did the backdrops for plays [and] illustrated the yearbook and the school newspaper.” After graduating from high school, she enrolled at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary. She left Calgary a year later and headed east, eventually landing in Toronto. Shortly after Mitchell made her first tentative appearances on the city’s fledgling folk music circuit, an unplanned pregnancy proved to be a jarring interruption in her life. “I was twenty,” she told White, “and it was a crush with a fellow painter, and I got pregnant immediately. To be pregnant and unmarried in 1964 was like you killed somebody.” She subsequently met Chuck Mitchell, an older folksinger, who said he would “take us on,” she said in her interview with Gandee. “I was kind of railroaded… We were never suitable. I went down the aisle saying, ‘I can get out of this.”

For the Record…

Born Roberta Joan Anderson on November 7, 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada; daughter of William A. (a grocery store manager) and Myrtle M. (a teacher; maiden name, McKee) Anderson; married Chuck Mitchell (a musician), 1965; divorced, c. 1967; married Larry Klein (a musician and producer), 1982; divorced, 1992; children: Kilauren Gibb (with Brad McMath). Education: Attended Alberta College of Art, Calgary, Alberta.

Worked as a singer in folk clubs while living in Toronto, Detroit, and New York City, 1964-69; released first album, Joni Mitchell, 1968; first chart single, “Big Yellow Taxi,” released in 1970 on Ladies of the Canyon; released Blue, 1971; turned increasingly to jazz-influenced work, late 1970s; returned to public performance after six years, 1994; released Travelogue, 2002.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Folk Performance for Clouds, 1970; Orville H. Gibson Award, 1995; Billboard Century Award, 1995; Royal Swedish Academy of Music, Polar Music Prize, 1996; induction, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1997; Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2002.

Addresses: Record company—Reprise Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91510. Website—Joni Mitchell Mitchell Official Website: http://www.jonimitchell.com.

The couple, who married a month after they met, subsequently took up residence in Detroit, but the marriage disintegrated within about two years. Emotionally drained and financially bare, Mitchell also gave up her daughter for adoption. “For years I didn’t talk about this because of my parents, although I did leak little things, little messages into my songs for the child, just to let her know I was thinking about her,” she told White.

Mitchell moved to Manhattan, where she threw herself into establishing a place on the local music scene. Her reputation grew, but work was still sometimes elusive. “The year Dylan went electric (1965) the folk clubs started closing all over the country,” she told Susan Gordon Lydon in the New York Times. “It was like an epidemic… In those days, if you only played acoustical guitar, club owners treated you as though you were a dinosaur.”

She persevered, though, and with the help of Byrds vocalist David Crosby she eventually signed with Reprise Records. Her debut album, 1968’s Joni Mitchell, was produced by Crosby, although Mitchell concedes that his influence was actually fairly minimal. The album, a simple affair that featured Mitchell’s soaring singing voice and skillful acoustic guitar work, garnered immediate attention. Clouds, her second album, explored the same terrain as her first work: romanticism, emotional confusion, and other affairs of the heart.

Banging on Stardom’s Door

“A major impetus for Mitchell’s work at this time,” contended Dave Laing and Phil Hardy in the Encyclopedia of Rock, “was the struggle to make sense of a personal failure to find lasting satisfaction in any of her well-publicized relationships.” Mitchell’s 1970 release, Ladies of the Canyon, showed that she was continuing to develop musically. While her daring vocals and crisp acoustic guitar playing continued to anchor her sound, additional instrumentation effectively complemented several of the album’s songs.

With 1971’s Blue, Mitchell’s already shining critical reputation took another giant step forward. The album featured such classics as “The Last Time I Saw Richard,” “California,” “This Flight Tonight,” and the title track, and stunned reviewers marveled at the honesty, longing, and intelligence that underpinned the entire effort. Rolling Stone reviewer Timothy Crouse wrote that on Blue, Mitchell has “matched her popular music skills with the purity and honesty of what was once called folk music and through the blend she has given us some of the most beautiful moments in recent popular music.” White later commented that “the resoundingly intimate Blue stretched the tape measure for unfathomed personal inquiry until it snapped free of the spool. The deeper Mitchell delved, the higher her untethered singing flew, trembling with tortured liberty.”

The subject matter of Mitchell’s songs, though—and their inevitable coupling to her romantic relationships with such well-known artists as Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and Graham Nash—led some magazines to pay greater attention to her personal life than her musical output. Mitchell began to explore different musical directions and less introspective subjects for her songs, only to find her visibility in the entertainment world slowly ebb away. Albums such as For the Roses (1972); Court and Spark (1974), which included Mitchell’s only Top 20 hit “Help Me”; and Hejira (1976) received hearty words of appreciation, but others were treated less kindly. Rolling Stone even called Mitchell’s 1975 release, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the worst record of the year.

Bold and creative experiments, such as her tribute to dying jazz great Charles Mingus on Mingus (1979), met with indifference or critical barbs from many quarters, and by the early 1980s Mitchell’s popularity had fallen significantly. “I lost some people when I went from singing ‘you’. I lost some people when I added a band,” she explained to Gandee. Ironically, though, her fading in the public eye served to liberate Mitchell. “Once I realized that I had fallen from favor, I decided to stretch out…. I can’t pander to public opinion. Besides, the fact is no matter how talented you are, you fall out of favor.” Indeed, Mitchell never appeared to question the value of her output; as she told Gandee, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are “my real peers. We’re the poets of that generation.”

In 1982 Mitchell married record producer Larry Klein, and over the course of the decade she released three fine albums on Geffen Records—Wild Things Run Fast, Dog Eat Dog, and Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm—that were largely ignored. Undeterred by the tepid reception of each album, Mitchell continued to explore new musical avenues while also indulging her lifelong passion for painting. (A number of Mitchell’s albums feature her own artwork on covers or inner sleeves.)

Night Ride Home, Mitchell’s 1991 release, received warm reviews. The album seemed to spark a slow stir in the music community as some people questioned the songwriter’s long exile in the musical wilderness. Three years later, Mitchell unveiled Turbulent Indigo, the seventeenth album in her long and varied career. Entertainment Weekly contributor Linda Sanders echoed the sentiments of many when she called the album “the distilled essence of everything she’s done before.” As critics raved about the musical and lyrical depth of the album, Mitchell assumed a visibility in the industry she had not seen since the mid-1970s.

Recognition in the 1990s

In retrospect, critics returned to Mitchell’s earlier albums, and some began to give greater thought to her place in pop music history. Sanders, for example, conceded that “all she’s really managed to deliver in the course of sixteen albums is one of the most vivid and delicious chronicles of a woman’s life that’s ever been produced in any medium anytime, anyplace.” In Guitar Player, Martin Simpson called her “perhaps the most influential female guitarist of the century,” and a huge influx of young female singer/songwriters cited the impact of Mitchell’s music on their lives.

The early 1990s were transitional years for Mitchell in many ways. While recognition of her talent ascended once again, her personal life was rocked by several blows. She divorced Klein in 1992, though she noted in her interview with Gandee that their relationship endures, albeit in a different form. “We’ve come through this thing. It’s poignant sometimes. We went out the other night. He was playing with Shawn Colvin, and they invited me to come down and sit in. You have to readjust. I imagine that it will be a lifetime friendship.”

Polio Returned

Mitchell’s childhood bout with polio also returned to haunt her. She admitted to White in 1995 that she suffers from post-polio syndrome, a malady wherein “the wiring in my central nervous system is overtaxed, and when I don’t conserve my energy, the disease manifests itself in loss of animation. Last year and the year before I was experiencing a lot of muscle aches, joint aches, and extreme sensitivity to temperature changes.”

Despite her physical difficulties, however, Mitchell has launched a cautious return to concert performing. In 1994 she performed at the Edmonton Folk Festival, playing her first full-length set in six years before an appreciative audience of fans and relatives. “It had a homecoming kind of feeling,” remarked Mitchell in Guitar Player. She has turned to a variety of medical treatments to stave off her illness, and she remained defiant about her chances in the mid-1990s. “The polio survivor is a stubborn creature. I’m in good spirits, and high spirits is how I beat it before,” she told Gandee.

In the mid-1990s Mitchell received several notable awards, further indication that she had come full circle in the eyes of the music community. Late in 1995, Mitchell was named the recipient of Billboard magazine’s Century Award, and she won the Royal Swedish Academy of Music’s Polar Music Prize in 1996. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, securing her place in the annals of music history.

Another major event occurred in 1997—Mitchell, for the first time in over 30 years, was reunited with the daughter she gave up for adoption. Kilauren Gibb, a former model and mother of two who bears a striking resemblance to Mitchell, discovered who her birth mother was while surfing the Internet. “We’re more like sisters,” she said of her daughter to W magazine. “Our relationship is beautiful—since I didn’t raise her, we don’t have the scar tissue that’s frequently built up between mother and daughter.”

Considered Retirement

Following her successful comeback in the mid-1990s, Mitchell continued to steadily release material, both new and reworked. In 1996, she released the albums Hits and Misses, and Taming the Tiger in 1998, which received a lukewarm reception. She took a break from songwriting following Taming the Tiger, concentrating solely on her vocals on 2000’s Both Sides Now. Accompanied for the first time by a orchestra made of 71 people at times, Mitchell’s voice confidently soared over the music. She described the experience to Down beat’s Koransky, “The best analogy that I can come up with is surfing. The difference between this and other beautiful experiences that I’ve had is the grand scale of it, the enormous power of the orchestra.”

Travelogue appeared in 2002, a collection of Mitchell’s songs reworked, expanded on, and rerecorded. She contemplated, once again, retiring from the music industry, which she had grown to disdain, but didn’t commit to anything. “When the dust settles,” wrote All Music Guide reviewer Jason Ankeny, “Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential recording artist of the late 20th century. Uncompromising and iconoclastic, Mitchell confounded expectations at every turn.” Mitchell won a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2002.

Selected discography

Joni Mitchell, Reprise, 1968.

Clouds, Reprise, 1969.

Ladies of the Canyon, Reprise, 1970.

Blue, Reprise, 1971.

For the Roses, Asylum, 1972.

Court and Spark, Asylum, 1974.

Miles of Aisles, Asylum, 1974.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Asylum, 1975.

Hejira, Asylum, 1976.

Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, Asylum, 1977.

Mingus, Asylum, 1979.

Shadows and Light, Asylum, 1980.

Wild Things Run Fast, Geffen, 1982.

Dog Eat Dog, Geffen, 1985.

Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, Geffen, 1988.

Night Ride Home, Geffen, 1991.

Turbulent Indigo, Reprise, 1994.

Hits, Reprise, 1996.

Misses, Reprise, 1996.

Taming the Tiger, Reprise, 1998.

Both Sides Now, Reprise, 2000.

Travelogue, Warner, 2002.

Sources

Books

Hardy, Phil, and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, Schirmer Books, 1988.

Marsh, Dave, and John Swenson, New Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House, 1983.

Periodicals

Billboard, December 9, 1995; December 16, 1995; September 8, 2001.

Down Beat, May 2000.

Entertainment Weekly, March 1, 1991.

Guitar Player, February 1995, p. 55.

Maclean’s, June 1974; October 31, 1994.

New York Times, April 20, 1969; November 7, 1982.

People, December 16, 1985.

Record World, March 6, 1976.

Rolling Stone, August 5, 1971; October 15, 1992; December 15, 1994.

Time, November 28, 1994.

Toronto Star, March 2, 2003.

Vogue, April 1995, p. 191.

W, December 2002.

Online

“Joni Mitchell,” All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (april 23, 2003).

Joni Mitchell Official Website, http://www.jonimitchell.com (April 22, 2003).

Kevin Hillstrom

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"Mitchell, Joni." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mitchell, Joni." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mitchell-joni-0

"Mitchell, Joni." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mitchell-joni-0

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell

In her nearly four decades as a musician and lyricist, Joni Mitchell (born 1943) has spanned the fields of folk, pop, rock, and jazz with 23 albums. Her willingness to change direction without warning has frequently left fans upset, but her free spirit has endowed her creativity. By 2002, Mitchell had achieved the stature of Bob Dylan and influenced the likes of Madonna and Prince. Even Frank Sinatra recorded one of her songs.

Joni Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson on November 7, 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada. She was daughter of Bill Anderson, a grocer, and his wife Myrtle, a schoolteacher. Mitchell moved with her parents to North Battleford, Saskatchewan, after World War II ended. At the age of nine, she and her family would move again to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which Mitchell today considers her hometown.

After a friend introduced her to classical music, Mitchell asked her parents whether she could study piano. Although the seven-year-old aspiring musician did in fact start piano lessons, the lessons only lasted eighteen months. By then Mitchell had had enough of the "knuckle-rapping" school of music that was then in vogue. More importantly, she had discovered that she enjoyed creating her own music more than she did learning to do piano exercises. Also at the age of 9, Mitchell contracted polio, a disease that was often fatal at the time. Cared for by her mother, she eventually recovered. Mitchell also dates her taking up smoking to this period—a habit she continues to indulge in.

In the seventh grade, Mitchell was inspired by an English teacher who encouraged her to write about things she knew and to develop her ability to convey descriptive imagery. Mitchell would later dedicate her first record album to this teacher. Unable to afford a guitar, Mitchell purchased a baritone ukulele, which she played at parties and the local coffeehouse. After she graduated from high school, she enrolled in Calgary's Alberta College of Art. Finding the classes to be uncreative, she left after a year. Mitchell had, by this time, become a regular performer at a club in Calgary, so it was not entirely surprising that she left in June 1964 for Toronto to pursue a career as a folksinger.

False Start

Finding success in the Toronto music scene proved to be more difficult than Mitchell had imagined. Unable to afford membership in the musician's union, she was unable to get many performing jobs. Instead, she was forced to take a job in a department store. In February 1965, she gave birth to a baby girl who had been fathered by her ex-boyfriend from college. Shortly before giving birth, she had met a folk singer named Chuck Mitchell, who had offered to take care of her and the child. A few weeks after the birth of her daughter Joni and Chuck were married. Soon after, Mitchell gave her daughter up for adoption. (Mitchell kept the child a secret for 30 years, not even telling her parents. In 1995, following rumors that appeared on the Internet, Mitchell made contact with the lost daughter.) In the summer of 1965, Chuck Mitchell took Joni with him to Detroit, Michigan, where he found work. A year and a half later Joni and Chuck Mitchell had separated.

Following the 1967 divorce, Mitchell relocated to New York to pursue her musical career. Based in New York City, she acquired a reputation as an East Coast songwriter and live performer. In the fall of 1967 she met Elliot Roberts, who began managing her career. With the help of former Byrds band member David Crosby, she landed a recording contract for a solo acoustic album. In the meantime, she moved to California, where she shared a house with Crosby.

Mitchell was given very little compensation in her first recording contract. Eventually Elliot Roberts negotiated a better deal for her at Reprise, and she received total artistic control of her work. When Mitchell left Reprise, she was able to negotiate similar arrangements with Asylum Records—and later with Geffen Records—that gave her considerably more autonomy than most other recording artists enjoyed. However, disagreements over unpaid royalties would follow and relations with record boss, David Geffen, were strained.

Early Albums

Mitchell's debut album, Joni Mitchell, was released in March 1968. On the album she declined to record any of her songs that other artists had turned into hits. That December, Judy Collins' version of Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" would reach the top of the record charts, earning Mitchell considerable income in royalties. Instead she performed her relatively unknown folk songs. Interestingly, Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" was written when she was only 21. This fact has amazed many people who have been struck with the depth of emotion expressed in the song. But as Mitchell told W magazine in 2002, "When I did experience these things, I was right, so I seemed to know what I was talking about."

In April 1969, Mitchell's second album, Clouds, was released. It included her classics, "Chelsea Morning," "Both Sides Now," and "Tin Angel." Although Mitchell was unable to get to the 1969 Woodstock rock festival due to excessive highway traffic, she chronicled the event with her song of the same name, which became a hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. In 1970, shortly before Reprise released her third album, Ladies of the Canyon, Mitchell won a Grammy for Clouds. " In Ladies of the Canyon, Mitchell ventured into increasingly complex arrangements, adding woodwinds, backup singers, and a cello to her own performance. Ladies would become her first gold album (with 500,000 copies sold).

At this point, Mitchell decided to take a year off from performing. She began traveling through Europe, visiting France, Spain, and Greece. Her subsequent album, Blue, released in 1971, featured songs she had written during her travels. Blue was also of note because it saw Mitchell alternating between acoustic guitar-and piano-based arrangements. In "For The Roses" (1972), Mitchell used pop-rock arrangements to back up her songs about the problems with being in love and the difficulties of being an artist. The album quickly climbed the charts. Looking back, Mitchell noted that she passed through her folk period rather rapidly. Her rock 'n' roll career was equally short-lived, probably, she said, because she was never much of a "druggie."

In 1974, Court and Spark was released. The album found Mitchell increasingly embracing a "pop" sound, but with the addition of orchestral arrangements and jazz-inspired sounds. Court and Spark had the distinction of appearing when Mitchell was at the peak of her popularity. Her next offering, Miles of Aisles (1974), was a live rock album based on concerts she gave during the summer of 1974 at the Universal Amphitheater, backed up by the L.A. Express. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns (1975), although a top seller, evoked some of the first negative reviews to greet Mitchell's work. Some of her fans took particular issue with the criticisms that Mitchell levelled at society in the album. A year later, Mitchell's Hejira (1976) found the artist vocalizing about a spiritual journey she had made. On this album a guitar, bass, and drums accompanied her. With songs written for the most part when Mitchell was traveling by car though the U.S., the album was recorded in the summer of 1976. Many of the songs dealt with Mitchell's concerns about not having a family.

Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977) was followed by Mingus (1979). It is generally felt that in Mingus, which Mitchell composed with jazz great Charles Mingus shortly before his death, she failed to reach her own, and presumably Mingus's, expectations. The news was scarcely better a year later when Mitchell released Shadows and Light (1980), which contained live versions of songs that Mitchell had already recorded in the studio on Miles of Aisles. Critics called the album a disappointment.

In December 1980, Mitchell returned to Toronto for her acting debut in a film anthology entitled Love, about women's perceptions of love. She also contributed the title song. However, the film was never released. But there was also good news—in 1981 Mitchell was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. She subsequently left for a six-week Caribbean vacation, during which she took time to paint.

About this time, Mitchell became embroiled in a dispute with a salmon fishing company that wanted to build a hatchery near some property she owned in Vancouver, Canada. The local newspaper sided with the hatchery, arguing that its construction would lead to more jobs, while pointing out that Mitchell was not even a full-time resident. The salmon company, for its part, claimed that Mitchell was just some Hollywood celebrity who was out to ruin its business.

The Limelight of Decline

In 1985, the all-star single, "We Are the World" was released. Mitchell, who was at the time studying yoga, later said her yoga teacher sent her to a psychic dietician who hardly allowed her to eat anything. In response, she recorded "Ethiopia" in 1985, a song about an Ethiopian who is experiencing famine. In Dog Eat Dog (1985), Mitchell complained angrily about increasing trends toward censorship, especially in rock 'n' roll music. The response to Dog Eat Dog was, as usual by this time, mostly negative, and the album ended up with only moderate sales. The disappointing reception led Mitchell to cancel her six-month 1986 tour. She instead stayed home and painted.

But there would be bright spots too. In the fall of 1990, the Los Angeles Theater Center put on a revue with five singers performing the songs of Mitchell. The show ran for three months. Then in the early part of 1991, a traveling exhibit of Mitchell's paintings made the rounds in Europe. In Night Ride Home, released the same year, Mitchell made do without any guest artists, and her vocals came across as deep and rich. Turbulent Indigo (1994) saw Mitchell return full circle in a melancholy mood to her earlier work.

In February 1996, Mitchell received the Orville H. Gibson Award for best Female Acoustic Guitar Player, even though she had by that time switched from acoustic to electric guitar. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Mitchell in 1997. On Taming the Tiger (1998), Mitchell played a computerized guitar to produce a sound unlike anything she had achieved before.

Past Prime

With Both Sides Now (2000), Mitchell's voice came across as ravaged from her years of smoking. The album could not be salvaged even with the backup of a large orchestra conducted by Vince Mendoza. Travelogue (2002) once again saw Mitchell performing well past her prime. On the album, she recorded some of her old songs with the backup of the London Symphony Orchestra, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock. The album had few admirers. Part of the problem was that by 2002, Mitchell's voice no longer had the three-octave range of her youth. While her cigarette smoking had contributed, it was also as Mitchell told W magazine, "I don't take good care of my voice." But she added that she would rather sound gravelly like Louis Armstrong than pitch-perfect like Streisand.

Parting Shots

Following the release of Travelogue in 2002, Mitchell took aim at the music industry, calling it a "corrupt cess-pool," while announcing her decision to stop recording. Mitchell also said that musicians today are made, not born. She told W magazine, "The artists don't have to play anything—they can cheat, buy songs and put their name on them, so they can build the illusion that they are creative. And because [the record companies] made you, they can kiss you off. Me, I don't sell that many records, but they can't kiss me off so easily." As she notes, her records have rarely sold large numbers. During her remarkable career she had only one Top 10 record ("Help Me"), and that was in 1974.

In November 1982—although the dates vary—Joni married bass player and sound engineer Larry Klein. Although they separated in 1994, they have continued to collaborate professionally. Besides her marriages to Chuck Mitchell and Larry Klein, Mitchell has been romantically linked to David Crosby, Graham Nash, James Taylor, Warren Beatty, and Jackson Browne.

Books

Fleischer, Leonore, Joni Mitchell, Flash Books, 1976.

Periodicals

Guardian (London, England), November 21, 2002.

New York Times, January 5, 2003.

W, December 2002.

Online

"The Joni Mitchell Homepage," Available online athttp://www.jonimitchell.com/ (January 2003). □

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Mitchell, Joni

JONI MITCHELL

Born: Roberta Joan Anderson, 7 November 1943

Genre: Folk, Rock, Jazz

Best-selling album since 1990: Turbulent Indigo (1994)

Hit songs since 1990: "Night Train Home," "The Magdalene Laundries," "Stormy Weather"


Joni Mitchell's artistic achievement places her in the vanguard of recent popular music, no mean attainment for a woman in a male-dominated industry. Her folk roots and focus on the power of the lyric bear comparison with a performer like Bob Dylan, yet Mitchell is more than just a female version of that giant of the rock scene. While she has operated in that similar singer/songwriter mode, her constant striving for new ways to shape and present her work marks her as a singular talent.


Canadian Beginnings

Growing up in rural Canada, Mitchell studied painting in Calgary and then moved to Toronto in 1964. She learned to play guitar and began to play the role of roaming troubadour in the folk tradition made fashionable by artists such as Woody Guthrie and then Bob Dylan. In 1965 she married a fellow singer, Chuck Mitchell, with whom she also performed. Her striking good looks helped attract attention to her collection of potently original work, featuring unusual guitar tunings and delivered in a voice that swooped memorably into the upper registers. She began to build a reputation in bars and coffee houses. She met the established folksinger Tom Rush, who recorded a Mitchell original, "The Circle Game," which also became the title track of his next album. Other leading folk performers were aware of Mitchell's talents, with Judy Collins recording a version of her song "Both Sides Now" in 1967.


Greenwich Village Coffee Houses

When her marriage ended that same year, she moved to New York, forging a name in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village but also travelling to England at the encouragement of the noted producer Joe Boyd. However, it was only after Mitchell's encounter with David Crosby, a former member of the renowned rock band the Byrds, that her star began to ascend. Crosby, a well-known practitioner of offbeat guitar-tunings himself, became her lover and then produced her debut LP, Song to a Seagull.

It was a promising yet not fully formed introduction to Mitchell's art; it was on her second collection, Clouds (which featured "Chelsea Morning" and "Both Sides Now," the latter an international hit in the hands of Collins), that she really began to carve out a career of major proportions. By the time Ladies of the Canyon was released in 1972, Mitchell was the major female singer in a musical revolution that blended folk and rock forms and witnessed the emergence of dozens of singer/songwriters. The album showcases such classic Mitchell compositions as "The Circle Game," the environmental anthem "Big Yellow Taxi," and a song that captured the spirit of the times, "Woodstock," a celebration of the 1969 rock festival.

With Blue (1971) Mitchell created perhaps the archetypal album of the era: a collection of fragile, introspective songs that celebrated love and commemorated loss in equal measure. Her relationship with Graham Nashnow a colleague of Crosby's in Crosby, Stills, and Nashwas one of the affairs she reflected on in this landmark LP, which seemed to distill the essence of the new California and its growing community of folk-inclined hippies.


Goddess of Confession

But Mitchell was quick to cast off the status of the goddess of confession, muse to other rock stars, and a mere chronicler of heartbreak. For the Roses (1972) hinted at a fuller, lusher, and more ambitious sound with strings, horns, and woodwind augmenting her voice, guitar, and piano. On Court and Spark (1974), the vision was pursued with even greater vigor. With the jazz saxophonist Tom Scott and his band LA Express in tow, Mitchell concocted an epic contemplation of stardom and its downside; "Free Man in Paris" and "Down to You" move away from the autobiographical, drawing on observations of a new gallery of characters centered in Los Angeles.

The following year The Hissing of Summer Lawns proved a stunning climax to this periodjazz and tribal rhythms sat comfortably with the remarkable folk melodies that Mitchell had always invented with such facility. "The Boho Dance," "The Jungle Line," and "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow" had critics gasping, yet her mature sophistication began to distance her from the paying public. Hejira (1976), showcasing the rising star of the jazz bass Jaco Pastorius, was almost as good, but it fared less well commercially. By the time of Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977), an ambitious, sprawling double release, and the brave but challenging Mingus (1979), a reinterpretation of work by the great jazz bass player Charlie Mingus, Mitchell had set course on a route that left her girlish romanticism far, far behind.

Since then, Mitchell has retrenched. Her albums in the past two decades have harked back to her styles of the early and mid-1970s, and even earlier still. The dramatic progression she so clearly sought in that decadefrom folkie balladeer to sophisticated social commentator to cosmopolitan purveyor of sounds that embraced rock, jazz, and world influenceshad stalled. Wild Things Run Fast (1982), Dog Eat Dog (1985), and Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (1988) share the lyrical richness of their predecessors but seemed to mark time.

In this period Mitchell did expand her range of collaborators, engaging the synthesizer master Thomas Dolby to produce Dog Eat Dog and enlisting contributions from Peter Gabriel, Billy Idol, Willie Nelson, and Tom Petty on Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm; it seemed that if her interest in jazz had been sidelined, she was still eager to bring flavors as diverse as country and punk to her work. The decade also saw a significant personal and musical development. Mitchell married for the second time, shortly after the release of Wild Things Run Fast, and her new husband, the bassist Larry Klein, became a key figure in the production of her recorded work.

Acoustic Stylings Revisited

Night Ride Home (1991) saw the decade begin with Mitchell revisiting some of the acoustic stylings that had marked her success at the end of the 1960s. Hailed as a return to roots and a return to form, the recording focuses on her vocal strengths and her acoustic guitar playing. One of the reasons for this stripped-down version was that she had built a studio in her Bel Air home; although there were contributions from Wayne Shorter, the focus of the work rested on Mitchell's shoulders. The title track expresses a certain optimism, countered by the more melancholic moods of "Two Grey Rooms."

A three-year silence, bridged only by a cameo appearance on the second album by emerging British singer Seal, was broken in 1994 with the arrival of Turbulent Indigo, an album that would see Seal return the favor on the track "How Do You Stop"; the song earned Mitchell a Grammy for Best Pop Album. Her separation from Klein, shortly before the release of Turbulent Indigo, did not result in his exclusion from the collection, which he co-produced. The album was, however, made in the same home studio, a circumstance that resulted in emotional tensions that were, perhaps, reflected in the vivid title. Some of the material ventures into socially fraught issues: "The Magdalene Laundries" covers the incarceration of Irish women by the Catholic Church, and "Not to Blame" is a powerful anti-rape piece.

Since then, aside from the 1998 album Taming the Tiger, Mitchell has been treading water professionally, with a number of recordings drawing on her past material. In 1996, in a unique move, she simultaneously issued a pair of albums that summarized her career output: Hits, which gathers her more familiar work, and Misses, a collection of her best lesser-known songs. Taming the Tiger saw her operating again with Klein and Shorter, expressing longing on "Man from Mars" and bemoaning abandon on "Crazy Cries of Love."


Lavish Rearrangements

In 2000 Mitchell issued Both Sides Now, an album of standards, including "You're My Thrill," "Stormy Weather," and "Answer Me, My Love," alongside new takes on her own title tune and her composition "A Case of You." She followed it with Travelogue (2002), a double set, which employs a full orchestra to recreate some of her finest moments in a series of lavish rearrangements. With the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vince Mendoza, she creates new versions of "Woodstock," "The Last Time I Saw Richard," "God Must Be a Boogie Man," and nineteen other pieces of her work. It also became her valedictory set; she revealed, in magazine interviews, her intentions to retire from recording and quit the business"a corrupt cesspool," in her wordslate that year.

In considering Joni Mitchell's legacy, one must not overlook her paintingseveral of her album covers, including Clouds, Mingus, Wild Things Run Fast, and Travelogue, feature her visual art; her images were also used in the 2001 movie Vanilla Sky. But that is a mere footnote to her magnificent musical achievement, which was a huge influence on her own generation of popular music makers and those who followed. Amy Grant and Janet Jackson have sourced her songs for hits of their own, and performer/composers such as Prince, Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, and Shawn Colvin have paid tribute to Mitchell as an inspiration, a songwriter, and a personal role model. Few artists can claim to have captured the tenor of an era in songor in any other art form, for that matteras memorably or as movingly as Joni Mitchell did during her apogee in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Song to a Seagull (Reprise, 1968); Clouds (Reprise, 1969); Ladies of the Canyon (Reprise, 1970); Blue (Reprise, 1971); For the Roses (Asylum, 1972); Court and Spark (Asylum, 1974); The Hissing of Summer Lawns (Asylum, 1975); Hejira (Asylum, 1976); Mingus (Asylum, 1979); Wild Things Run Fast (Geffen, 1982); Night Ride Home (Geffen, 1991); Turbulent Indigo (Reprise, 1994); Hits (Reprise, 1996); Misses (Reprise, 1996); Travelogue (Warner Bros., 2002).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

B. Hinton, Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now (London, 1996); S. Luftig, The Joni Mitchell Companion: Four Decades of Commentary (New York, 2000); K. O'Brien, Shadows and Light (London, 2001).

WEBSITE:

www.jonimitchell.com.

simon warner

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Mitchell, Joni

Joni Mitchell, 1943–, Canadian songwriter, singer, guitarist, poet, and painter, b. MacLeod (now Fort Macleod), Alta., as Roberta Joan Anderson; married musician Chuck Mitchell (1965–67). She moved (1967) from Detroit to New York City, and sang on the East Coast folk circuit. She cut her first record, Joni Mitchell, in 1968, the year singer Judy Collins recorded Mitchell's "Both Sides Now." Mitchell's quirky, complex, witty, and often introspective songs, frequently marked by social or feminist concerns, resonated with the young folk-rock audience. She had successive hits with such albums as Clouds (1969; Grammy), Ladies of the Canyon (1970), Blue (1971), and Court and Spark (1974). During the late 1970s she turned to jazz experiments in The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), Hejira (1976), Mingus (1979), and other albums. She has continued to write, record, and perform, but has never attained the huge popularity of her earlier years. Among her notable later albums are Dog Eat Dog (1985), the Grammy-winning Turbulent Indigo (1997), and Travelogue (2002).

See Joni Mitchell: The Complete Poems and Lyrics (1997); biographies by B. Hinton (1996) and K. O'Brien (2001); Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind (video documentary, 2003).

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"Mitchell, Joni." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Mitchell, Joni

Joni Mitchell

Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

By taking risks, [Joni] Mitchell has survived into D the late 1980s with her art still blazing, declared Nicholas Jennings in Macleans magazine. Mitchell, who started out as a folksinger in the 1960s, is respected as an innovative contributor to various musical genres. In addition to folk, she has made successful forays into rock, country, and jazz. Though perhaps best known for her folk compositions Both Sides, Now and The Circle Game, Mitchell also had hits with Big Yellow Taxi, Help Me, Raised on Robbery, and Turn Me On (Im a Radio). Most of her albums have become gold records, and she won a Grammy Award for the best folk performance in 1970 for her album Clouds. Mitchell is also a talented painter; she adorns her album covers with her own brushwork, and in 1988 exhibited her paintings in Tokyo, Japan.

Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson in 1943 in Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Canada. The only child of a grocery store manager and a former schoolteacher, Mitchell grew up listening to her mother quote the works of poet and playwright William Shakespeare. She was also encouraged early in her musical abilities; after the family moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, her father bought her a secondhand piano. Mitchell told Michael Small in People that the piano lessons lasted a few years, but they conflicted with listening to Wild Bill Hickock on the radio, so I quit. Instead, she taught herself how to play guitar with a Pete Seeger instruction book. Receiving her primary and secondary education in the time before art and music were a part of the curriculum, Mitchell found little to interest her academically, and thus was a mediocre student. She centered her efforts in school, however, on extracurricular activities. Mitchell explained to Small: I was always the school artist. I did the backdrops for plays, [and] illustrated the yearbook and the school newspaper.

After graduating from high school, Mitchell enrolled in the Alberta College of Art in Calgary with the aim of studying commercial art. Bored with her classes, she began to concentrate more on her musical talent, and after about a year, left to try her luck as a folksinger in Toronto, Ontario. When Mitchell arrived there, she did not have a musicians union card, so she worked in a department store to earn the union dues. Eventually, however, Mitchell became well known in Torontos folk circles, playing at clubs like the Riverboat. At this time she met Chuck Mitchell, a folk singer from Detroit, Michigan. They married shortly after they metone account claims it was only thirty-six hoursand moved to Detroit. Though Mitchell took her stage name from a derivative of her middle name and her husbands surname, the marriage did not last long, and after about a year she left him and moved to New York City.

For the Record

Name originally Roberta Joan Anderson; born November 1N 7, 1943, in Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Canada; daughter of William A. (a grocery store manager) and Myrtle M. (a teacher; maiden name, McKee) Anderson; married Chuck Mitchell (a singer, songwriter, and musician), June, 1965 (divorced c. 1966); married Larry Klein (a bass player), 1982. Education: Attended Alberta College of Art.

Worked in a department store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, c. 1963; singer in folk clubs in Toronto, c. 1964-65, in Detroit, Mich., c. 1965-66, and in New York City, 1967-69; recording artist and concert performer, 1968; began musical collaboration with backup group L.A. Express, 1974.

Awards: Grammy Award for best folk performance, 1970, for album, Clouds.

Addresses: Residence Los Angeles, Calif.; and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Manager Elliot Roberts, Lookout Management, 9120 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069. Other c/o 624 Funchal Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90024.

Mitchell struggled for about a year and a half in a New York folk scene clogged with acts until she was discovered by Reprise records. In 1968, she put out Joni Mitchell, her first album, later retitled Song to a Seagull. The work garnered mixed reviews, but Mitchells next album, Clouds, released in 1969, featured her unique chording style and the song Both Sides, Now. Though the single was a much bigger hit for fellow folk songstress Judy Collins, who released a cover version, it won Mitchell a reputation as a songwriter, and the album it came from won Mitchell a Grammy.

Tiring of city life, Mitchell moved to California and settled in Laurel Canyon, near Los Angeles. There she was inspired to write the material for her third album, 1970s Ladies of the Canyon, which included Big Yellow Taxi. Canyon also included Woodstock, celebrating the 1969 rock music festival of the same name, and was well-received by music critics. Hailed for her major effort in Canyon, Mitchell was lauded by Don Heckman in the New York Times: Her crystal clear imagery is as shining bright as ever, and her melodies, if anything, seem to be improving.

After Mitchell followed up Canyon with 1971 s Blue, she moved to Asylum records to record For the Roses, which featured Turn Me On (Im a Radio). The song has a country sound, and Mitchell continued her branching into different musical fields on 1974s Court and Spark. On Spark, Mitchell recorded a version of the jazz classic made famous by singer Annie Ross, Twisted, and the rock-influenced Raised on Robbery. Also, that album marked the first project on which she used her longtime jazz backup group, the L.A. Express. She continued her jazz experimentation with 1975s The Hissing of Summer Lawns, which, though rated the worst album of the year by Rolling Stone magazine, according to Small, became a gold record and has been reassessed in the light of praise from others in the musical field. In 1979, Mitchell released Mingus, a collaboration with jazz artist Charles Mingus that she worked on with him just before he died of Lou Gehrigs disease. Featuring lyrics Mitchell wrote to Minguss music, the album was not a critical or popular success. As Mitchell told Small: It cost me plenty. It put me in a no-mans land where radio stations couldnt pin me down. But, she asserted, if I had to do it over again, I would.

During the earlier years of her career, Mitchell had been the subject of much press gossip concerning her affairs with fellow musicians, including Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and Graham Nash and David Crosby of the group Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The press portrayed me as this heartbreaker, Mitchell revealed to Small. She put an end to this kind of speculation, however, in 1982, when she married her second husband, bass player Larry Klein. Klein has played for Mitchell on some of her albums, including Dog Eat Dog. Released on Geffen records in 1985, Dog Eat Dog was yet another turning point for Mitchell. Widely considered her most political album, it is rock-oriented and features protest songs which rail against greed, TV evangelism and the far right, according to Nicholas Jennings in Macleans. Jennings, however, preferred Mitchells 1988 Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, which he labeled her best album in years. Although Mitchells anger [displayed in Dog Eat Dog] is muted on Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, her resolve remains strong.

Selected discography

LPs

Joni Mitchell (includes I Had a King, Michael From the Mountains, Nathan La Freneer, and Cactus Tree), later retitled Song to a Seagull, Reprise, 1968.

Clouds (includes Both Sides, Now, Chelsea Morning, and The Fiddle and the Drum), Reprise, 1969.

Ladies of the Canyon (includes Big Yellow Taxi, The Circle Game, and Woodstock), Reprise, 1970.

Blue (includes The Last Time I Saw Richard and A Case of You), Reprise, 1971.

For the Roses (includes Turn Me On (Im a Radio), Woman of Heart and Fire, See You Sometime, and Lesson in Survival), Asylum, 1972.

Court and Spark (includes Twisted, Help Me, Raised on Robbery, The Same Situation, Car on a Hill, and Free Man in Paris), Asylum, 1974.

Miles of Aisles (live; includes The Last Time I Saw Richard, Carey, and Big Yellow Taxi), Asylum, 1975.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns (includes Harrys House and The Jungle Line), Asylum, 1975.

Hejira, Asylum, 1976.

Don Juans Reckless Daughter, Asylum, 1977.

Mingus, Asylum, 1979.

Shadows and Light (live), Asylum, 1980.

Dog Eat Dog, Geffen, 1985.

Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (includes My Secret Place, Dancin Clown, Snakes and Ladders, Cool Water, Number One, and Lakota), Geffen, 1988.

Sources

down beat, September 6, 1979.

Macleans, April 4, 1988.

Newsweek, November 4, 1985.

New York Times, April 15, 1970.

People, December 16, 1985.

Elizabeth Thomas

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