Introduction and Early Life:
Joni Mitchell is a Canadian singer-songwriter and visual artist who was a principal figure in the development of pop music into an art form. Her folk-inspired songs incorporated jazz rhythms and world music and her collaboration with jazz greats such as Charles Mingus, Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius garnered much critical acclaim. Mitchell was one of the finest and most creative recording artists of the late 20th century whose energetic musical performances, poetic lyrics, and outstanding sonic innovations proved to be highly influential and helped define an era.
Born “Roberta Joan Anderson” in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada in 1943, her father was a flight lieutenant in Royal Canadian Air Force and her mother was a teacher. Mitchell contracted polio at the age of eight. She developed an early interest in music and briefly studied classical piano. Although a poor student, she demonstrated excellent poetic skills. Mitchell briefly studied art in Calgary and then relocated to Toronto, where she started writing and performing music with her husband, Chad Mitchell.
She moved to Detroit in 1965 and to New York in 1966, finally settling in Los Angeles in 1968.
Career and Musical Achievements:
Joni Mitchell broke into the recording industry initially as a songwriter. Her first major breakthrough came in 1967, when Judy Collins recorded “Both Sides Now”, a song written by Mitchell that went on to win the 1968 Grammy Award for the Best Folk Performance. Other Mitchell songs have been recorded by various renowned artists such as Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dave Van Ronk, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
In 1968, with the help of David Crosby, she signed a contract with Reprise Records and released her critically-acclaimed acoustic debut album, Song to a Seagull. Mitchell is the sole record producer credited on majority of her recordings. In a career spanning more than three decades, Mitchell has released seventeen albums.
After deviating from her folk origins to the jazz sound of the 1970s and rock styles of the 1980s, she returned to a minimal, folk-based style in the 1990s. Her wide-ranging contralto singing style and distinctive open-tuned guitar and piano compositions have inspired countless artists worldwide in a diverse range of genres. Her lyrics have often been autobiographical, exploring themes such loneliness, love, heartbreak and modern life.
Awards and Accolades:
Joni Mitchell has won numerous awards and accolades in her career, including eight Grammys, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Billboard’s Century Award, and the Polar Music Prize. She was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1981, and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Joni Mitchell married Chuck Mitchell, an American folk-singer, in 1965. She had a daughter, Kelly Dale Anderson (born in 1965), from a previous relationship with ex-boyfriend Brad MacMath. Joni and Chuck divorced in 1967. She married her second husband, American musician Larry Klein, in 1982. Their marriage dissolved in 1994.