- Joni Mitchell
Infobox musical artist
Name = Joni Mitchell
Img_capt = Joni Mitchell holding her
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Roberta Joan Anderson
Born = birth date and age|1943|11|7
Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada
Instrument = vocals,
piano, guitar, dulcimer
Folk rock, Pop, Jazz, Art rock, World
Occupation = Songwriter, producer, musician, painter
Years_active = 1964-present
Label = Reprise (1968–1972, 1994–2001)
URL = [http://www.jonimitchell.com www.JoniMitchell.com]
Joni Mitchell, CC (born Roberta Joan Anderson on
November 7 1943) is a Canadian musician, songwriter, and painter. [ [http://www.jonimitchell.com/biography/bio.cfm?id=230 JoniMitchell.com - Biography ] ]
Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in her native
Western Canadaand then buskingon the streets of Toronto. In the mid-1960s she left for New York Cityand its rich folk musicscene, recording her debut album in 1968 and achieving fame first as a songwriter ("Urge for Going," " Chelsea Morning," "Both Sides Now", "Woodstock") and then as a singer in her own right. Finally settling in Southern California, Mitchell played a key part in the folk rockmovement then sweeping the musical landscape. "Blue", her starkly personal 1971 album, is regarded as one of the strongest and most influential records of the time. Mitchell also had pop hits such as " Big Yellow Taxi," " Free Man in Paris," and "Help Me," the latter two off 1974's " Court and Spark", her best-selling effort.
sopranovocals, distinctive harmonic guitarstyle, and pianoarrangements all grew more complex through the 1970s as she was deeply influenced by jazz, melding it with pop, folk and rock on experimental albums like 1976's "Hejira". She worked closely with jazz greats including Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, Herbie Hancock, and on a 1979 record released after his death, Charles Mingus. From the 1980s on, Mitchell reduced her recording and touring schedule but turned again toward pop, making greater use of synthesizers and direct political protest in her lyrics, which often tackled social and environmental themes alongside romantic and emotional ones.
Mitchell's work is highly respected both by critics and fellow musicians. "Rolling Stone" magazine called her "one of the greatest songwriters ever," [cite news |last=Wild |first=David |url=http://jmdl.com/library/view.cfm?id=935 |title=Joni Mitchell |publisher=Rolling Stone |date=2002-10-31 |accessdate=2007-03-09 |format = reprint] while
All Music Guidesaid, "When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century." [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:3ifexqe5ldte~T1 allmusic ((( Joni Mitchell > Biography ))) ] ] By the end of the century, Mitchell had a profound influence on artists in genres ranging from R&Bto alternative rockto jazz. Mitchell is also a visual artist. She made the artwork for each of her albums, and in 2000 described herself as a "painter derailed by circumstance." [Interview with the Toronto " Globe and Mail"] A blunt critic of the music industry, Mitchell had stopped recording over the last several years, focusing more attention on painting, but in 2007 she released "Shine", her first album of new songs in nine years.
Joni Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson on
November 7 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, to Bill Anderson and Myrtle Anderson (born McKee). Her mother was a teacher, and her father an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. During the war years, she moved with her parents to a number of bases in western Canada. After the war, her father began working as a grocer, and his work took the family to Saskatchewan to the towns of Maidstone and North Battleford. When she was eleven years old, the family settled in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which Mitchell considers her hometown.
Her father was of Norwegian background (including
Sami), which is borne out in Joni's Scandinavianappearance. Her mother's maiden name was McKee, so she also claims Scottish and Irish ancestry. [Irish Times Magazine, p 14, 19 July, 2008]
At the age of nine, Mitchell contracted polio during a Canadian
epidemic, but she recovered after a stay in the hospital. It was during this time that she first became interested in singing. She describes her first experience singing while in hospital during the winter in the following way:
"They said I might no [t] walk again, and that I would not be able to go home for Christmas. I wouldn't go for it. So I started to singShe began smoking at the age of nine as well, a habit which is debatably one of the factors contributing to the change in her voice in recent years (Mitchell herself disputes this in several interviews).Fact|date=September 2008
Christmas carolsand I used to sing them real loud....The boy in the bed next to me, you know, used to complain. And I discovered I was a ham." cite news |last=Crowe |first=Cameron |url=http://www.cameroncrowe.com/eyes_ears/articles/crowe_jrl_joni_mitchell.html |title=Joni Mitchell |publisher=Rolling Stone |date=1979-07-26 |accessdate=2007-03-09 |format = reprint]
As a teenager, Joni taught herself
ukuleleand, later, guitar. She began performing at parties, which eventually led to busking and gigs playing in coffeehouses and other venues in Saskatoon. After finishing high school, she attended the Alberta College of Art and Designin Calgaryfor a year, but then left, telling her mother: “I'm going to Toronto to be a folksinger”Fact|date=July 2008.
And so, after leaving art college in June 1964, Mitchell left her home in Saskatoon to relocate to Toronto. Joni also found out that she was pregnant by her college ex-boyfriend, and in February 1965 she gave birth to a baby girl. A few weeks after the birth, Joni Anderson married folk-singer Chuck Mitchell, and took his surname. He promised to help take responsibility for the child but something changed, and a few weeks later Joni gave her daughter, Kelly Dale Anderson, up for
adoption. The experience remained private for most of her career, but she made allusions to it in several songs, most notably the song "Little Green" (from "Blue"), and, years later, the song "Chinese Cafe" from "Wild Things Run Fast" ("Your kids are coming up straight/My child's a stranger/I bore her/But I could not raise her"). Her daughter, renamed Kilauren Gibb, began a search for her as an adult, and the two were reunited in 1997. [cite news |last=Johnson |first=Brian D |url=http://tceplus.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=M1ARTM0011323 |title=Joni Mitchell's Secret |publisher=Maclean's |date=1997-04-21 |accessdate=2007-03-09]
In the summer of 1965, Chuck Mitchell took Joni with him to the United States. However, the marriage and partnership of Joan & Chuck Mitchell dissolved in a year and a half, in early 1967. Thereafter, Mitchell launched her solo career.
1960s: Folk singer
In early 1967 Joni Mitchell moved to New York City to pursue her musical dreams as a solo artist. She played venues up and down the East Coast, including Philadelphia, Boston, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She performed frequently in coffeehouses and
folk clubsand, by this time creating her own material, became well known for her unique songwriting and her innovative guitar style. Oscar Brandfeatured her several times on his CBC television program " Let's Sing Out" in 1965 and 1966, broadening her exposure. Joni attended school at WVU for short period, which lead to her song "Morning Morgantown". [ http://www.courierpostonline.com/blogs/2005/07/columbus-ohio.html]
Tom Rushhad met Mitchell in Toronto and was impressed with her songwriting ability. He took "Urge For Going" to popular folk act Judy Collinsbut she was not interested in the song at the time, so Rush recorded it himself. Country singer George Hamilton IVheard Rush performing it and recorded a hit country version. Other artists who recorded Mitchell songs in the early years were Buffy Sainte-Marie("The Circle Game"), Dave Van Ronk("Both Sides Now"), and eventually Judy Collins("Both Sides Now", a top ten hit, included on her 1967 album "Wildflowers"). Collins also covered "Chelsea Morning," a recording which again eclipsed Mitchell's own commercial success early on. While she was playing one night in "The Gaslight South" [ [http://www.jonimitchell.com/library/view.cfm?id=1357 JoniMitchell.com/JMDL Library: A Conversation with David Crosby: JoniMitchell.com, March 15, 1997 ] ] , a club in Florida, David Crosbywalked in and was immediately struck by her ability and her appeal as an artist. He took her back to Los Angeles, where he set about introducing her and her music to his friends. David convinced a record company to agree to let Joni record a solo acoustic album without all the folk-rock overdubs that were in vogue at the time, and his clout earned him a producer's credit in March 1968, when Reprise Recordsreleased her debut album, alternately known as "Joni Mitchell" or " Song to a Seagull".
Mitchell continued touring steadily to promote the LP. The tour helped create eager anticipation for Mitchell's second LP, "Clouds", which was released in April 1969. It finally contained Mitchell's own versions of some of her songs already recorded and performed by other artists: "
Chelsea Morning", "Both Sides Now", and "Tin Angel". The covers of both LPs, including a self-portrait on "Clouds", were designed and painted by Mitchell, a marriage of her art and music which she would continue throughout her career.
Early and mid-1970s: Pop success
In March 1970 "Clouds" won Joni Mitchell her first
Grammy Award, for Best Folk Performance of 1969. Soon after, Reprise released her third album, " Ladies of the Canyon". Mitchell's sound, still under the guidance of producer Crosby, was already beginning to expand beyond the confines of acoustic folk music and toward pop and rock, with more overdubs, percussion, and backing vocals, and for the first time, many songs composed on piano, which would become a hallmark of Mitchell's style in her most popular era. Her own version of "Woodstock", slower and darker than the Crosby, Stills & Nash cover, was performed on electric piano. The album also included the already-familiar song "The Circle Game" and the environmental anthem "Big Yellow Taxi", with its now-famous line, "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot".
"Ladies" was an instant smash on FM radio and sold briskly through the summer and fall, eventually becoming Joni's first gold album (selling circa 500,000 copies). Mitchell made a decision to stop touring for a year and just write and paint, yet she was still voted Top Female Performer for 1970 by "
Melody Maker", the UK's leading pop music magazine. The songs she wrote during the months she took off for travel and life experience would appear on her next album, "Blue", released in June 1971.
"Blue" was an almost instant critical and commercial success, peaking in the top 20 in the Billboard Album Charts in September. Lushly-produced "Carey" was the single at the time, but musically, other parts of "Blue" departed further from the sounds of "Ladies of the Canyon" in favor of simpler, rhythmic acoustic parts allowing a focus on Joni's voice and emotions ("All I Want," "A Case of You"), while others such as "Blue", "River" and "The Last Time I Saw Richard" were sung to her rolling piano accompaniment. In its lyrics, the album was regarded as an inspired culmination of her early work, with depressed assessments of the world around her serving as counterpoint to exuberant expressions of romantic love (for example, in "California"). Mitchell later remarked, "At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a
cellophanewrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong."
Mitchell made the decision to return to the live stage after the great success of "Blue", and she presented many new songs on tour which would appear on her next album. Joni's fifth album, "
For the Roses", was released in October 1972 and immediately zoomed up the charts. She followed with the single, "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio", which peaked at #25 in the Billboard Charts for two weeks beginning in February 1973, becoming her first bona-fide hit single. The album was critically acclaimed and earned her success on her own terms, though it was somewhat overshadowed by the success of "Blue" and by Mitchell's next album. " Court and Spark", released in January 1974, would see Mitchell begin the flirtation with jazz that marked her experimental period ahead, but it was also her most commercially successful recording, and among her most critically acclaimed. "Court and Spark" went to #2 on the Billboard album charts and stayed there for four weeks. The LP made Joni Mitchell a widely popular act for perhaps the only time in her career, on the strength of popular tracks such as " Free Man in Paris", which was released right before Christmas 1973, and "Help Me", which was released in March of the following year, and became Joni's only Top 10 single when it peaked at #7 in the first week of June. "Raised on Robbery" was another hit single.
While recording "Court and Spark", Mitchell had tried to make a clean break with her earlier folk sound, producing the album herself and employing jazz/pop fusion band the L.A. Express as what she called her first real backing group. In February 1974, her tour with the L.A. Express began, and they received rave notices as they traveled across the United States and Canada during the next two months. A series of shows at L.A.'s Universal Amphitheater from August 14-17 were recorded for a live album release. In November, Mitchell released a live album called "
Miles of Aisles", a two-record set including all but two songs from the L.A. concerts (one selection each from the Berkeley Community Center, on March 2nd, and the LA Music Center, on March 4th, were also included in the set). The live album slowly moved up to #2, matching "Court and Sparks"'s chart peak. "Big Yellow Taxi", the live version, was also released as a single and did reasonably well (Mitchell would ultimately release yet another recording of "Big Yellow Taxi" in 2007).
In January 1975, the Grammy nominations were announced. "Court and Spark" received four nominations, including Album of the Year, for which Mitchell was the only woman nominated. She won only one award, for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals.
Mid to late-1970s: Jazz experimentation
Joni Mitchell went into the studio in the spring of 1975 to record acoustic demos of some songs she'd written since the "Court and Spark" tour ended. A few months later she recorded versions of the tunes with her band, which now included saxophonist
Wayne Shorter. Mitchell's musical interests now were diverging from both the folk and the pop scene of the era, toward less structured, more jazz-inspired pieces, with a wider range of instruments. On "The Jungle Line," she also made an early effort at sampling a recording of African musicians, something that would become more commonplace among Western rock acts in the 1980s. Meanwhile, "In France They Kiss on Main Street" continued the lush pop sounds of "Court and Spark", and efforts such as the title song and "Edith and the Kingpin" chronicled the underbelly of suburban lives in Southern California.
The new song cycle was released in November 1975 as the LP "
The Hissing of Summer Lawns". The album was a big seller and peaked at #4 on the Billboard album charts, but it received mixed reviews at the time of its release.Fact|date=August 2008 A common legend holds that " Rolling Stone" magazine declared it the "Worst Album of the Year"; in truth, it was called only the year's worst album "title". [cite news |last=Morrissey |url=http://motorcycleaupairboy.com/interviews/1997/mitchell.htm |title=Melancholy Meets the Infinite Sadness |publisher=Rolling Stone |date=1997-03-06 |accessdate=2007-03-09 |format = reprint] However, Mitchell and "Rolling Stone" have had a contentious relationship, beginning years earlier when the magazine featured a "tree" illustrating all of Mitchell's alleged romantic partners, primarily other musicians, which the singer said "hurt my feelings terribly at the time".cite news |last=Wild |first=David |url=http://jmdl.com/library/view.cfm?id=935 |title=Joni Mitchell |publisher=Rolling Stone |date=2002-10-31 |accessdate=2007-03-09 |format = reprint] During 1975, Mitchell also participated in several concerts in the Rolling Thunder Revue toursfeaturing Bob Dylanand Joan Baez, and in 1976 she performed as part of " The Last Waltz" by The Band. In January 1976, Mitchell received one Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for the album " The Hissing of Summer Lawns", though the Grammy went to Linda Ronstadt.
In early 1976, Mitchell traveled with friends who were driving cross country to Maine. Afterwards, Mitchell drove back to California alone and composed several songs during her journey which would feature on her next album, 1976's "Hejira". She states, "This album was written mostly while I was traveling in the car. That's why there were no piano songs..."Fact|date=August 2008 "Hejira" was possibly Mitchell's most experimental album so far, featuring legendary jazz bassist
Jaco Pastoriuson several songs including the first single, "Coyote", the atmospheric "Hejira," and the disorienting, guitar-heavy "Black Crow." The album climbed to #13 on the Billboard Charts, reaching gold status three weeks after release, and received airplay from album oriented FM rock stations. Yet "Coyote", backed with "Blue Motel Room", failed to chart on the Hot 100. While the album was greeted by many fans and critics as a "return to form",Fact|date=August 2008 by the time she recorded it her days as a huge pop star were over. However, if "Hejira" "did not sell as briskly as Mitchell's earlier, more accessible albums, its stature in her catalogue has grown over the years." cite news |last=Fischer |first=Doug |url=http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=c5551bd3-2dea-4fc5-b5b8-81115aab7836&k=4978 |title=The trouble she's seen: Doug Fischer talks to Joni Mitchell about her seminal album, Hejira |publisher=The Ottawa Citizen |date=2006-10-08 |accessdate=2007-03-09] Mitchell herself believes the album to be unique. In 2006 she said, "I suppose a lot of people could have written a lot of my other songs, but I feel the songs on "Hejira" could only have come from me".
In the summer of 1977, Mitchell began work on new recordings, what would become her first double studio album. Close to completing her contract with Asylum Records, Mitchell felt that this album could be looser in feel than any album she'd done in the past and said, "This record followed on the tail of persecution, it's experimental, and it didn't really matter what I did, I just had to fulfill my contract". "
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" was released in December 1977. The album received mixed reviews but still sold relatively well, peaking at #25 in the US and going gold within three months. The cover of the album created its own controversy; Mitchell was featured in several photographs on the cover, including one where she was disguised as a black man (this is a reference to a character in one song on the album). Layered, atmospheric compositions such as "Overture / Cotton Avenue" featured more collaboration with Pastorius, while "Paprika Plains" was a 20-minute epic that stretched the boundaries of pop, owing more to Joni's memories of childhood in Canada and her study of classical music. "Dreamland" and "The Tenth World", featuring Chaka Khanon backing vocals, were percussion dominated tracks. Other songs continued the jazz-rock-folk collisons of "Hejira". Mitchell also revived "Jericho," written but never recorded years earlier (a version is found on her 1974 live album). A few months after the release of "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter", Mitchell was contacted by jazz great Charles Mingus, who had heard the orchestrated song, "Paprika Plains", and wanted her to work with him. Mitchell began a collaboration with Mingus, who died before the project was completed in 1979. She finished the tracks (most were her own Mingus-inspired compositions, though "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is a Mingus instrumental standard to which Joni composed lyrics) and the resulting album, "Mingus", was released in June 1979, though it was poorly received in the press. Topping out at #17 on the Billboard album charts, which was a higher placement than her last LP, "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter", "Mingus" still fell short of gold status, her first album since the 60s to not sell at least a half-million copies.
Mitchell's summer tour to promote "Mingus" began in August 1979 in Oklahoma City and concluded six weeks later with five shows at Los Angeles' Greek Theater, where she recorded and filmed the concerts. It was her first tour in several years, and with Pastorius and other members of her band, Mitchell also performed songs from her other jazz-inspired albums. When the tour ended she began a year of work, turning the tapes from the Los Angeles shows into a two-album set and a concert film, both to be called "
Shadows and Light". Her final release on Asylum Records and her second live double-album, it was released in September 1980, and made it up to #38 on the Billboard Charts. A single from the LP, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?", Mitchell's duet with The Persuasions (her opening act for the tour), bubbled under on Billboard, just missing the Hot 100.
1980s: The "Geffen era"
For a year and a half, Mitchell worked on the tracks for her next album. During this period Mitchell recorded with bassist Larry Klein, eventually marrying him in 1982. While the album was being readied for release, her friend
David Geffen, founder of Asylum Records, decided to start a new label, Geffen Records. Still distributed by Warner Brothers (who controlled Asylum Records), Geffen was able to negate the remaining contractual obligations Mitchell had with Asylum and signed her to his new label. 1982's "Wild Things Run Fast" marked a return to pop songwriting, including "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody", which incorporated the chorus and parts of the melody of the famous Righteous Brothershit, and "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care", a remake of the Elvis chestnut which charted higher than any Mitchell single since her 70s sales peak when it climbed to #47 on the charts. The album, however, peaked on the Billboard Charts in its fifth week at only #25.
As 1983 began, Mitchell began a world tour, visiting Japan, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Denmark and then back to the United States. A performance from the tour was videotaped and later released on home video (and later DVD) as "Refuge Of The Roads". As 1984 ended, Mitchell was writing new songs, when she had a suggestion from Geffen that perhaps an outside producer with experience in the modern technical arenas they wanted to explore might be a worthy addition. British
synth-popperformer and producer Thomas Dolbywas brought on board. Of Dolby's role, Mitchell later commented: "I was reluctant when Thomas was suggested because he had been asked to produce the record [by Geffen] , and would he consider coming in as just a programmer and a player? So on that level we did have some problems... He may be able to do it faster. He may be able to do it better, but the fact is that it then wouldn't really be my music."Fact|date=March 2007
The album that resulted, "Dog Eat Dog", released in October 1985, received a mostly negative critical response.Fact|date=August 2008 It turned out to be only a moderate seller, peaking at #63 on Billboard's Top Albums Chart, Mitchell's lowest chart position since her first album peaked at #189 almost eighteen years before. One of the songs on the album, "Tax Free", created controversy by lambasting "televangelists" and what she saw as a drift to the religious right in American politics. "The churches came after me", she wrote, "they attacked me, though the Episcopalian Church, which I've described as the only church in America which actually uses its head, wrote me a letter of congratulation". [Irish Times Magazine, p 14, 19 July 2008]
Mitchell continued experimenting with synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers for the recordings of her next album, 1988's "
Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm". She also collaborated with artists including Willie Nelson, Billy Idol, Wendy and Lisa, Tom Petty, Don Henleyand Peter Gabriel. The album's official first single was in fact a duet with Gabriel, "My Secret Place", which just missed the Billboard Hot 100 charts, though the video received airplay on VH-1. Her duet with Henley, "Lakota," was one of many songs on the album to take on larger political themes, in this case the deadly battle between Native American activists and the FBI on the Lakota Sioux reservation in the previous decade. Musically, too, several songs fit into the trend of world musicpopularized by Gabriel during the era. Reviews were mostly favorable towards the new album, and the cameos by well-known musicians brought it considerable attention. "Chalk Mark" ultimately improved on "Dog Eat Dog"'s chart performance, peaking at #45. After its release, Mitchell, who rarely performed live anymore, participated in Roger Waters' The Wall Concert in Berlin.
1990s and early 2000s: Turbulence and resurgence
Throughout the first half of 1990, Mitchell recorded songs that would appear on her next album. She delivered the final mixes for the new album to Geffen just before Christmas, after trying nearly a hundred different sequences for the songs. The album "
Night Ride Home" was released in March 1991. In the United States, it premiered on Billboard's Top Album charts at #68, moving up to #48 in its second week, and peaking at #41 in its sixth week. In the United Kingdom, the album premiered at #25 on the album charts. Critically, it was better received than her 80s work and seemed to signal a move closer to her acoustic beginnings, along with some references to the style of "Hejira". But to wider audiences, the real "return to form" came with 1994's Grammy-winning " Turbulent Indigo".
While the recording period also saw the divorce of Mitchell and bassist
Larry Klein, whose marriage had lasted almost 12 years, "Indigo" was seen as Mitchell's most accessible set of songs in years. Songs such as "Sex Kills", "Sunny Sunday", "Borderline" and "The Magdalene Laundries" mixing social commentary and guitar-focused melodies for "a startling comeback".cite news |last=Gill |first=Alexandra |url=http://jmdl.com/library/view.cfm?id=1575 |title=Joni Mitchell in person |publisher=Toronto Globe and Mail |date=2007-02-17 |accessdate=2007-03-11 |format = reprint] The album won two Grammy awards, including Best Pop Album, and it coincided with a much-publicized resurgence in interest in Mitchell's work by a younger generation of singer-songwriters.
In 1996, Mitchell agreed to release a greatest "Hits" collection when label Reprise also allowed her a second "Misses" album to include some of the lesser known songs from her career. "Hits" charted at #161 in the US, but made #6 in the UK. Mitchell also included on "Hits", for the first time on an album, her first recording, a version of "Urge for Going" which preceded "Song to a Seagull" but was previously released only as a B-side.
Two years later, Mitchell released her final set of "original" new work before nearly a decade of other pursuits, 1998's "
Taming the Tiger". She promoted "Tiger" with a return to regular concert appearances, most notably a co-headlining tour with Bob Dylanand Van Morrison. On the album, Mitchell had played a "guitar synthesizer" on most songs, and for the tour she adapted many of her old songs to this instrument, and reportedly had to re-learn all her complex tunings once again.
It was around this time that critics also began to notice a real change in Mitchell's voice, particularly on her older songs; the singer later admitted to feeling the same way, explaining that "I'd go to hit a note and there was nothing there."cite news |last=Eggar |first=Robin |url=http://jmdl.com/library/view.cfm?id=1569 |title=The Renaissance Woman |publisher=Sunday Times |date=2007-02-11 |accessdate=2007-03-09 |format = reprint] While her more limited range and huskier vocals have sometimes been attributed to her smoking (she has been described as "one of the world's last great smokers"), Mitchell believes the changes in her voice that became noticeable in the nineties were due to other problems, including vocal nodules, a compressed larynx, and the lingering effects of having had polio. In an interview in 2004, she denied that "my terrible habits" had anything to do with her more limited range and pointed out that singers often lose the upper register when they pass fifty. In addition, she contended that in her opinion her voice became a more interesting and expressive alto range when she no longer could hit the high notes, let alone hold them like she did in her youth. [National Public Radio.]
The singer's next two albums featured no new songs and, Mitchell has said, were recorded to "fulfill contractual obligations", but on both she attempted to make use of her new vocal range in interpreting familiar material. "
Both Sides Now" (2000) was an album composed mostly of covers of jazz standards, performed with an orchestra, featuring orchestral arrangements by Vince Mendoza. The album also contained remakes of " A Case of You" and the title track "Both Sides Now", two early hits transposed down to Mitchell's now dusky, soulful alto range. It received mostly strong reviews, and its success led to 2002's "Travelogue", a collection of re-workings of her previous songs with lush orchestral accompaniments.
Mitchell stated at the time that this would be her final album. In a 2002 interview with "Rolling Stone", she voiced discontent with the current state of the music industry, describing it as a "cesspool". Mitchell expressed her dislike of the
record industry's dominance and her desire to control her own destiny, possibly through releasing her own music over the Internet.
During the next few years, the only albums Mitchell released were compilations of her earlier work. In 2003, Mitchell's Geffen recordings were collected in a remastered, four-disc box set, "The Complete Geffen Recordings", including notes by Mitchell and some previously unreleased tracks. A series of themed compilations of songs from earlier albums were also released: "The Beginning of Survival" (2004), "Dreamland" (2004), and "Songs of a Prairie Girl" (2005), the last of which collected the threads of her Canadian upbringing and which she released after accepting an invitation to the Saskatchewan Centennial concert in Saskatoon. The concert, which featured a tribute to Mitchell, was also attended by
Queen Elizabeth II. In "Prairie Girl" liner notes, she writes that the collection is "my contribution to Saskatchewan's Centennial celebrations".
In the early 1990s, Mitchell signed a deal with
Random Houseto publish an autobiography. [Dickinson, Chrissie. [http://www.jonimitchell.com/library/view.cfm?id=1334 "Court and No Spark"] (book review, reprint), Washington Post, 2005-06-15. Retrieved on 2007- 09-25.] In 1998 she told " The New York Times" that her memoirs were "in the works", that they would be published in as many as four volumes, and that the first line would be "I was the only black man at the party". [Strauss, Neil. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F07E7DD1E39F937A35753C1A96E958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all "The Hissing of a Living Legend"] , The New York Times, 1998-10-04. Retrieved on 2007- 09-25.] In 2005, Mitchell said that she was using a tape recorder to get "down [her memories] in the oral tradition".Brown, Ethan. [http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/music/pop/11888/ "Influences: Joni Mitchell"] , New York Magazine, 2005-05-09. Retrieved on 2007- 09-25.]
Although Mitchell stated that she would no longer tour or give concerts, she has made occasional public appearances to speak on environmental issues. [ [http://www.commonwealthclub.org/archive/05/05-04mitchell-audio.html Joni Mitchell Audio ] ] Mitchell divides her time between her longtime home in
Los Angeles, and the 80-acre property in Sechelt, British Columbia that she has owned since the early 1970s. "L.A. is my workplace", she said in 2006, "B.C. is my heartbeat". [ [http://jonimitchell.com/library/view.cfm?id=1460 JoniMitchell.com/JMDL Library: Joni Mitchell's Fighting Words: Ottawa Citizen, October 7, 2006 ] ] According to interviews, today she focuses mainly on her visual art, which she does not sell and which she displays only on rare occasions. [ [http://jonimitchell.com/contact.cfm JoniMitchell.com - Contact Us ] ]
In an October 2006 interview with "The Ottawa Citizen", Mitchell "revealed she's recording her first collection of new songs in nearly a decade", but gave few other details. Four months later, in an interview with "The New York Times", Mitchell said that the forthcoming album, titled "Shine", was inspired by the war in Iraq and "something her grandson had said while listening to family fighting: 'Bad dreams are good—in the great plan'".cite news |last=Yaffe |first=David |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9501E7D6143FF937A35751C0A9619C8B63 |title=DANCE: Working Three Shifts, And Outrage Overtime |publisher=The New York Times |date=2007-02-04 |accessdate=2008-04-08] Early media reports characterized the album as having "a minimal feel... that harks back to [Mitchell's] early work", and a focus on political and environmental issues.
In February 2007, Mitchell also returned to
Calgaryand served as an advisor for the Alberta Ballet Companypremiere of "The Fiddle and the Drum", a dance choreographed to both new and old songs. Mitchell also filmed portions of the rehearsals for a documentary she's working on. Of the flurry of recent activity she quipped, "I've never worked so hard in my life".
In summer 2007, Mitchell's official fan-run site confirmed speculation that she had signed a two-record deal with
Starbucks' Hear Musiclabel. "Shine" was released by the label on September 25, 2007. [ [http://jonimitchell.com/news/index.cfm JoniMitchell.com ] ]
On the same day,
Herbie Hancock, a longtime associate and friend of Mitchell's, released "", an album paying tribute to Mitchell's work. Among the album's contributors were Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen, and Mitchell herself, who contributed a vocal to the re-recording of "The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms)" (originally on her album " Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm"). [ [http://www.herbiehancock.com/news/story.php?sid=59 Herbie Hancock News: Herbie Hancock's "River: The Joni Letters" Set For Release on September 25th ] ] On February 10, 2008, Hancock's recording won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. It was the first time in 43 years that a jazz artist took the top prize at the annual award ceremony. In accepting the award, Hancock paid tribute to Mitchell as well as to Miles Davis and John Coltrane. At the same ceremony Mitchell won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Pop Performance for the opening track "One Week Last Summer" from her album "Shine".
Unique guitar style
While some of Mitchell's most popular songs were written on piano, almost every song she composed on the guitar uses an open, or non-standard, tuning; she has written songs in some 50 different tunings, which she has referred to as "Joni's weird chords". The use of alternative tunings allows more varied and complex harmonies to be produced on the guitar, without the need for difficult chord shapes. Indeed, many of Joni's guitar songs use very simple chord shapes, but her use of alternative tunings and a highly rhythmic picking/strumming style creates a rich and unique guitar sound. Her right-hand picking/strumming technique has evolved over the years from an initially intricate picking style, typified by the guitar songs on her first album, to a looser and more rhythmic style, sometimes incorporating percussive "slaps", that have been featured on later albums.
Mitchell's longtime archivist, the San Francisco-based
Joel Bernstein, maintains a detailed list of all her tunings, and has assisted her in relearning the tunings for several older songs. [ [http://jmdl.com/library/print.cfm?id=38 JMDL LIBRARY: The guitar odyssey of Joni Mitchell: My Secret Place: Acoustic Guitar, August 1996 ] ] [ [http://jmdl.com/guitar/tuningpatterns.cfm jmdl.com: ] ]
Mitchell was also highly innovative harmonically in her early work (1966-72) using techniques including
modality, polymodality, chromaticism, polytonality, and strict pedal points ["Harmonic Palette in Early Joni Mitchell", p.173. Author(s): Lloyd Whitesell. Source: "Popular Music", Vol. 21, No. 2, (May, 2002), pp. 173-193. Published by: Cambridge University Press.] .
In 2003 "
Rolling Stone" named her the 72nd greatest guitarist of all time; she was the highest-ranked woman on the list. [ [http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5937559/the_100_greatest_guitarists_of_all_time The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time : Rolling Stone ] ]
Influences on other artists
Mitchell's work has had an influence on artists as disparate as
Tori Amos, Björk, Jeff Buckley, Clannad, Elvis Costello, Dan Fogelberg, Janet Jackson, Maynard James Keenan(Tool), Annie Lennox, Madonna, Chan Marshall( Cat Power), George Michael, Morrissey, Juice Newton, Conor Oberst, Prince, The Roots, Roxette, Shakira, The Sundays, and KT Tunstall.
For instance, Prince's song "The Ballad of
Dorothy Parker" off the album "Sign 'O' the Times", pays tribute to Mitchell, both through his evocative Mitchell-like harmonies and through the use of one of Mitchell's own techniques: as in Mitchell's song "This Flight Tonight", Prince references a song in his lyrics (Joni's own "Help Me") as the music begins to emulate the chords and melody of that song. Another Mitchell reference left by Prince can also be seen on the back cover of his 1981 "Controversy" record, where one of the headlines reads "★JONI★".
Madonna has also cited Mitchell, as the first female artist that really spoke to her as a teenager; "I was really, really into Joni Mitchell. I knew every word to "
Court and Spark"; I worshiped her when I was in high school. "Blue" is amazing. I would have to say of all the women I've heard, she had the most profound effect on me from a lyrical point of view." [cite news |last=Hirshey |first=Gerri |title=The Women In Rock Interviews |publisher=Rolling Stone |date=1997-11-13]
A number of artists have enjoyed success covering Mitchell's songs.
Judy Collins's 1967 recording of "Both Sides Now" reached #8 on Billboard charts and was a breakthrough in the career of both artists (Mitchell's own recording did not see release until two years later, on her second album " Clouds"). This is Mitchell's most-covered song by far, with 587 versions recorded at latest count. Holealso covered "Both Sides Now" in 1990, renaming it "Clouds" and changing the lyrics. Amy Grantscored a hit in 1995 with a cover of "Big Yellow Taxi", the second most covered song in Mitchell's repertoire (with 223 covers). Recent releases of this song have been by Counting Crowsin 2002 and Nenain 2007. Janet Jacksonused a sample of the chorus of "Big Yellow Taxi" as the centerpiece of her 1997 hit single " Got 'Til It's Gone", which also features rapper Q-tipsaying "Joni Mitchell never lie". Rap artists Kanye Westand Mac Drehave also sampled Mitchell's vocals in their music. In addition, Annie Lennoxhas covered "Ladies Of The Canyon" for the B-side of her 1995 hit "No More I Love You's". Mandy Moorecovered "Help Me" in 2003. In 2004 singer George Michaelcovered her song "Edith And The Kingpin" for a radio show. "River" has been of the most popular songs covered in recent years, with versions by James Taylor(recorded for television in 2000, and for CD release in 2004), Allison Crowe(2004), Rachael Yamagata(2004), Aimee Mann(2005), and Sarah McLachlan(2006). McLachlan also did a version of "Blue" in 1996, and Cat Powerrecorded a cover of "Blue" in 2008. Other Mitchell covers include the famous "Woodstock" by both Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Matthews Southern Comfort, "This Flight Tonight" by Nazareth, and well-known versions of "Woodstock" by Eva Cassidyand "A Case Of You" by Tori Amos, Jane Monheit, Prince, and Diana Krall.
Prince's version, "A Case of U," appeared on "
A Tribute to Joni Mitchell", a 2007 compilation released by Nonesuch Records, which also featured Bjork ("The Boho Dance"), Caetano Veloso("Dreamland"), Emmylou Harris("The Magdalene Laundries"), Sufjan Stevens("Free Man in Paris") and Cassandra Wilson("For the Roses"), among others. Some of the recordings were made in the late 1990s when a project entitled "A Case Of Joni" was developed but left incomplete. Among those who recorded tracks for the first tribute album, which remain unreleased, were Janet Jacksonand Sheryl Crow.
Several other songs reference Joni Mitchell.
Led Zeppelin's " Going to California" was said to be written about Robert Plantand Jimmy Page's infatuation with Mitchell, a claim that seems to be borne out by the fact that, in live performances, Plant often says "Joni" after the line "To find a queen without a king, they say she plays guitar and cries and sings". Jimmy Page uses a double dropped D guitar tuning similar to the alternative tunings Mitchell uses. The Sonic Youthsong Hey Jonifrom their acclaimed " Daydream Nation" album is named for Mitchell. Sonic Youth also uses a wide variety of alternate guitar tunings.
Awards and honors
Mitchell was inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Famein 1997, but did not attend the ceremony. In 1995, she received Billboard's Century Award. In 1996 she was awarded the Polar Music Prize.
She has received nine regular
Grammy Awards during her career, with the first coming in 1969 and the most recent in 2008. She received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awardin 2002, with the citation describing her as "one of the most important female recording artists of the rock era" and "a powerful influence on all artists who embrace diversity, imagination and integrity."
Regarding her as a national treasure, Mitchell's home country Canada has bestowed her with a number of honours. She was inducted into the
Canadian Music Hall of Famein 1981 and received a star on [http://www.canadaswalkoffame.com/inductees/00_joni_mitchell.xml.htm Canada's Walk of Fame] in 2000. In 2002 she became only the third popular Canadian singer/songwriter ( Gordon Lightfootand Leonard Cohenbeing the other two), to be appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour. She received an honourary doctoratein music from McGill Universityin 2004. In January 2007 she was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In June, 2007, Canada Postfeatured Mitchell on a postage stamp. [ [http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2007/06/12/stamps-stars.html Stamps honour iconic Canadian music stars] ]
In November, 2006, the album "Blue" was listed by "Time" magazine as among the "All-Time 100 Albums". [cite news |last=Tyrangiel |first=Josh |url=http://www.time.com/time/2006/100albums/0,27693,Blue,00.html |title=The All-TIME 100 Albums: Blue |publisher=Time |date=2006-11-13 |accessdate=2007-03-09]
In the 1990s Mitchell was listed as fourth on VH-1's list of "The One Hundred Most Important Women in Rock."
* "The Last Waltz" (1976) with
* "Shadows and Light" (1980) with
Jaco Pastorius, Pat Methenyand Michael Brecker
* "Refuge of the Roads" (1984) with
* "Come in from the Cold" (1991)
* "Painting With Words & Music" (1998)
* "Both Sides Now - An All-Star Tribute To Joni Mitchell" (TNT Network - 2000) with Richard Thompson,
k.d. lang, Cyndi Lauper, Shawn Colvin, Bryan Adams, Diana Krall, James Taylor, Elton Johnand Wynonna Judd.
* "Woman of Heart and Mind - A Life Story" (2003)
* "Goodbye Blue Sky" - Roger Waters' The Wall LIVE at Berlin - On 21 July 1990
* [http://us.video.aol.com/video.index.adp?mode=2&pmmsid=1450274 "My Secret Place" with Peter Gabriel (1998)]
* [http://us.video.aol.com/video.index.adp?mode=2&pmmsid=1101913 "Amelia" from "Travelogue" (2002)]
* [http://entimg.msn.com/i/asx/audio_streams/JoniMitchell_Dreamland_MBR.asx Dreamland album (2004) (Windows Media Audio)]
* [http://rbmaradio.com/ARCHIVE.153.0.php?extID=0&showID=447 RBMA Radio On Demand - Sound Obsession - Volume 8 - Joni Mitchell Special - Kirk Degiorgio (The Beauty Room, As One)]
* [http://jonimitchell.com JoniMitchell.com]
* [http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/joni-mitchell Joni Mitchell at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame]
* [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=U1ARTU0002397 Joni Mitchell in the Canadian Encyclopedia]
* [http://musicchain.net/tag/Joni%20Mitchell MusicChain - Joni Mitchell]
* [http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-68-2462/arts_entertainment/joni_mitchell/ CBC Digital Archives - Joni Mitchell: All Sides Now]
NAME = Mitchell, Joni
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Anderson, Roberta Joan
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Canadian musician and painter
DATE OF BIRTH =
November 7, 1943
PLACE OF BIRTH = Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
DATE OF DEATH =
PLACE OF DEATH =
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