Who is Joni Mitchell?

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  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Joni Mitchell is a Canadian singer-songwriter whose full given name was Roberta Joan Anderson. Mitchell was born in Macleod — now Fort Macleod — Alberta on 7 November 1943, and had polio when she was nine. It was during her hospitalization that she began to sing for others, and later she taught herself to play guitar. She went to art college in Calgary, but soon left and moved to Toronto, where she married Chuck Mitchell, and then to New York. It was there, aged 25, she recorded her first album, Joni Mitchell (Song to a Seagull), doing her own vocals and playing acoustic guitar.

Mitchell’s second album, Clouds, a year later in 1969 made it into the Top 40 and won a Grammy, the first of five. Other important albums include Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, and Court and Spark. “Help Me,” in 1974, was her one Top 10 record. Later albums received some negative reviews, and Mitchell turned to painting, with a European exhibition in 1991. Mitchell was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

Joni Mitchell announced her retirement from music in 2002, after Travelogue. Nevertheless, she released Shine in 2007 and it received more favorable reviews, citing a return of her vocal prowess. The same year, she was featured on a Canadian postage stamp.


Mitchell is perhaps best known for Judy Collins’ rendition of her song “Both Sides Now” and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s version of “Woodstock.” The songs she both wrote and sang the best-known version of include “Big Yellow Taxi,” “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio,” “Circle Game,” “Free Man in Paris,” “River,” “Help Me,” and “Chelsea Morning.”

Joni Mitchell’s music has influenced Tori Amos, Elvis Costello, Madonna, Mandy Moore, Morrissey, and Prince. Her works have been covered by Frank Sinatra, Counting Crows, Sarah McLachlan, George Michael, and Annie Lennox. Janet Jackson famously used a sample of “Big Yellow Taxi” in her single “Got ‘Til It’s Gone.”


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Post 4

I am also a big fan of Joni Mitchell. "Big Yellow Taxi" is the song everyone seems to know but much of her work is not quite as bouncy as that one. Many Joni Mitchell lyrics are rather sad and her songs have arrangements that are more challenging to first-time listeners than they may expect, particularly her later '70s albums that are more jazz-oriented than her folk-style songs.

My favorite song by Joni Mitchell, "Both Sides Now", was recorded by other singers before she released her own version, so some radio listeners may be surprised to find out that she was the one who wrote it.

Post 3

Joni Mitchell is definitely one of the great singer-songwriters of all time. What some people may not know is that she also painted the artwork for many of her own album covers, making her a real multi-talented artist.

I would add "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" and "Hejira" as the last two albums that mark the best run of the Joni Mitchell discography. Even though her later albums were not as acclaimed as her 1960s and '70s work I think it is too bad she is no longer active, because I am sure someone that talented would still have something worthwhile to give us.

Post 2

@dinoleash- There is actually a book called “The Misunderstood Woman from the Prairie Wheat Fields” that is about the life of Joni Mitchell. It was written by Katherine Monk and is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2011.

Mitchell has a website that has lots of great information. My mother is a fan and has a Joni Mitchell DVD collection. Her favorite one is called "Shadows and Light".

Post 1

Does anyone know what Joni Mitchell is doing now? Is she still doing any work?

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