Joni Mitchell Biography
Roberta Joan “Joni” Mitchell, CC is a Canadian singer-songwriter and painter born November 7, 1943. Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, the daughter of Myrtle Marguerite (McKee) and William Andrew Anderson. Her mother’s ancestors were Scottish and Irish; her father was from a Norwegian family (and possibly had some Sami ancestors). Her mother was a teacher. Her father was a Royal Canadian Air Force flight lieutenant who instructed new pilots at RCAF Station Fort Macleod, where the Allied forces were gathering to learn to fly during World War II. During those years, she moved with her parents to various 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. She later sang about her small-town upbringing in “Song for Sharon”.
They lived beside the railroad track in Maidstone , where Mitchell waved at the only train that passed through each day. Many of the town’s residents were First Nations people. Mitchell seemed athletic rather than academic, but still responded to her mother’s love of literature and her father’s love of music, and she briefly studied classical piano. At the age of nine years , Mitchell contracted polio in an epidemic, and was hospitalized for weeks. No longer athletic, she turned her thoughts to her creative talent, and considered a singing or dancing career for the first time. By nine, she was a smoker; she denies claims that smoking has affected her voice.
At the age of 11, she moved with her family to the city of Saskatoon, which she considers her hometown. She responded badly to formal education, preferring a freethinking outlook, and was drawn to art, a pursuit often regarded as peripheral at the time. One unconventional teacher did manage to make an impact on her, stimulating her to write poetry, and her first album includes a dedication to him. In twelfth grade, she flunked out (though she later picked up her studies) and hung out downtown with a rowdy set until deciding that she was getting too close to the criminal world.
At this time, country music began to eclipse rock, and Mitchell wanted to play the guitar. As her mother disapproved of its hillbilly associations,she settled initially for the ukulele. Eventually she taught herself guitar from a Pete Seeger songbook, but the polio had affected her fingers, and she had to devise dozens of alternative tunings of her own. Later this improvised approach was “a tool to break free of standard approaches to harmony and structure” in her own songwriting.
Mitchell started singing with her friends at bonfires around Waskesiu Lake. Her first paid performance was on October 31, 1962, at a Saskatoon club that featured folk and jazz performers. At 18, she widened her repertoire to include her own personal favorites like Édith Piaf and Miles Davis. Though she never performed jazz herself in those days, she and her friends sought out gigs by jazz musicians. Mitchell said, “My jazz background began with one of the early Lambert, Hendricks and Ross albums.” That album, The Hottest New Group in Jazz, was hard to find in Canada, she says. “So I saved up and bought it at a bootleg price. I considered that album to be my Beatles. I learned every song off of it, and I don’t think there is another album anywhere – including my own – on which I know every note and word of every song.”
When she finished high school at Aden Bowman Collegiate in Saskatoon, she took art classes at the Saskatoon Technical Collegiate with abstract expressionist painter Henry Bonli, and then left home to attend the Alberta College of Art in Calgary for the 1963–64 school year. Here she felt disillusioned about the high priority given to technical skill over free-class creativity,and also felt out of step with the trend towards pure abstraction, and the tendency to move into commercial art. After a year, at age 20, she dropped out of school – a decision that much displeased her parents, who could remember the Great Depression and valued education highly.
She had kept gigging as a folk musician on weekends, playing at her college and at a local hotel. Around this time she took a $15-a-week job in a Calgary coffeehouse, “singing long tragic songs in a minor key”. She also sang at hootenannies and even made appearances on some local TV and radio shows in Calgary. In 1964 at the age of 20, she told her mother that she intended to be a folk singer in Toronto, and she left western Canada for the first time in her life, heading east for Ontario. On the three-day train ride there, Mitchell wrote her first song, called “Day After Day”. She also stopped at the Mariposa Folk Festival to see Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Saskatchewan-born Cree folk singer who had inspired her. A year later, Mitchell too played Mariposa, her first gig for a major audience, and years later, Sainte-Marie herself covered her work.
Joni Mitchell Career
At the age of nine while recovering in a children’s hospital, she began her performing career by singing to the other patients. After later teaching herself to play guitar with the aid of a Pete Seeger instruction book, she went off to art college, and became a fixture on the folk music scene around Alberta. After relocating to Toronto, she married folksinger Chuck Mitchell in 1965, and began performing under the name Joni Mitchell.
A year later the couple moved to Detroit, Michigan, but separated soon after; Joni remained in the Motor City, however, and won significant press acclaim for her burgeoning songwriting skills and smoky, distinctive vocals, leading to a string of high-profile performances in New York City. There she became a cause célèbre among the media and other performers; after she signed to Reprise in 1967, David Crosby offered to produce her debut record, a self-titled acoustic effort that appeared the following year. Her songs also found great success with other singers: in 1968, Judy Collins scored a major hit with the Mitchell-penned “Both Sides Now,” while Fairport Convention covered “Eastern Rain” and Tom Rush recorded “The Circle Game.”
Clouds Thanks to all of the outside exposure, Mitchell began to earn a strong cult following; her 1969 sophomore effort, Clouds, reached the Top 40, while 1970’s Ladies of the Canyon sold even better on the strength of the single “Big Yellow Taxi.” It also included her anthemic composition “Woodstock,” a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Still, the commercial and critical approval awarded her landmark 1971 record Blue was unprecedented: a luminous, starkly confessional set written primarily during a European vacation, the album firmly established Mitchell as one of pop music’s most remarkable and insightful talents.
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As expected, she turned away from Blue’s incandescent folk with 1972’s For the Roses, the first of the many major stylistic turns she would take over the course of her daring career. Backed by rock-jazz performer Tom Scott, Mitchell’s music began moving into more pop-oriented territory, a change typified by the single “You Turn Me On (I’m a Radio),” her first significant hit. The follow-up, 1974’s classic Court and Spark, was her most commercially successful outing: a sparkling, jazz-accented set, it reached the number two spot on the U.S. album charts and launched three hit singles — “Help Me,” “Free Man in Paris,” and “Raised on Robbery.”
After the 1974 live collection Miles of Aisles, Mitchell emerged in 1975 with The Hissing of Summer Lawns, a bold, almost avant-garde record that housed her increasingly complex songs in experimental, jazz-inspired settings; “The Jungle Line” introduced the rhythms of African Burundi drums, placing her far ahead of the pop world’s mid-’80s fascination with world music. 1976’s Hejira, recorded with Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius, smoothed out the music’s more difficult edges while employing minimalist techniques; Mitchell later performed the album’s first single, “Coyote,” at the Band’s Last Waltz concert that Thanksgiving.
Her next effort, 1977’s two-record set Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, was another ambitious move, a collection of long, largely improvisational pieces recorded with jazz players Larry Carlton and Wayne Shorter, Chaka Khan, and a battery of Latin percussionists. Shortly after the record’s release, Mitchell was contacted by the legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus, who invited her to work with him on a musical interpretation of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. Mingus, who was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, sketched out a series of melodies to which Mitchell added lyrics; however, Mingus died on January 5, 1979, before the record was completed. After Mitchell finished their collaboration on her own, she recorded the songs under the title Mingus, which was released the summer after the jazz titan’s passing.
For the next year and a half, Mitchell worked on the tracks for her next album. During this period she recorded with bassist Larry Klein, whom she married 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 Bros. (who controlled Asylum Records), Geffen negated the remaining contractual obligations Mitchell had with Asylum and signed her to his new label. Wild Things Run Fast (1982) marked a return to pop songwriting, including “Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody”, which incorporated the chorus and parts of the melody of the famous The Righteous Brothers hit, 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 1970s sales peak when it climbed to No. 47 on the charts. The album peaked on the Billboard Charts in its fifth week at No. 25.
With 1991’s Night Ride Home, a spare, stripped-down collection spotlighting little more than her voice and acoustic guitar. Prior to recording 1994’s Turbulent Indigo, she and Klein separated, although he still co-produced the record, which was her most acclaimed work in years. In 1996, she compiled a pair of anthologies, Hits and Misses, which collected her chart successes as well as underappreciated favorites. A new studio album, Taming the Tiger, followed in 1998. Both Sides Now, a collection of standards, followed in early 2000.
Mitchell resurfaced two years later, with the double-disc release Travelogue. She announced in October 2002 that this would be her last album ever, for she’d grown tired of the industry. She told W magazine that she intended to retire. She also claimed she would never sign another corporate label deal, and in Rolling Stone blasted the recording industry for being “a cesspool.” By the time Travelogue appeared a month later, Mitchell had simmered down and her plans to call it quits had been axed. Numerous compilations and remasters appeared between 2002 and 2006, culminating in the release of the independent Shine in 2007. In 2014, Mitchell helped compile her first box set anthology, Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced, which featured remastered versions of 53 songs from her back catalog, all dealing with some aspect of love and relationships.
Joni Mitchell Awards and honours
Mitchell’s home country of Canada has bestowed several honours on her. She was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1981 and received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts, in 1996. Mitchell received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2000. In 2002 she became only the third popular Canadian singer-songwriter (Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen being the other two), to be appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour. She received an honorary doctorate in music from McGill University in 2004. In January 2007 she was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In June 2007 Canada Post featured Mitchell on a postage stamp.
Mitchell has received nine Grammy Awards during her career (eight competitive, one honorary), the first in 1969 and the most recent in 2016. She received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 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”.
In 1995, Mitchell received Billboard’s Century Award. In 1996, she was awarded the Polar Music Prize. In 1997, Mitchell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but did not attend the ceremony.
In tribute to Mitchell, the TNT network presented an all-star celebration at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on April 6, 2000. Mitchell’s songs were sung by many performers, including James Taylor, Elton John, Wynonna Judd, Bryan Adams, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Krall, and Richard Thompson. Mitchell herself ended the evening with a rendition of “Both Sides Now” with a 70-piece orchestra. The version was featured on the soundtrack to the movie Love Actually.
On February 12, 2010, “Both Sides, Now” was performed at the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver.To celebrate Mitchell’s 70th birthday, the 2013 Luminato Festival in Toronto held a set of tribute concerts entitled Joni: A Portrait in Song – A Birthday Happening Live at Massey Hall on June 18 and 19. Performers included Rufus Wainwright, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding, and rare performances by Mitchell herself.
Due to health problems she could not attend the San Francisco gala in May 2015 to receive the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award.In 2008, Mitchell was ranked 42nd on Rolling Stone’s “100 greatest singers” list and in 2015 she was ranked ninth on their list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.
Joni Mitchell Personal Life
She got married to Chuck Mitchell in the year 1965 and later divorced in 1967. Later in 1982 she married Larry Klein and divorced in 1994.
Joni Mitchell Daughter
She had a daughter by the name Kelly Dale Anderson whom she gave up for adoption when the biological father refused to marry her. The adoptive parents changed the girl’s name to Kilaruen Gibb.
Joni Mitchell Age
She was born on 7th November 1943.
Joni Mitchell Albums
- 1968: Song to a Seagull
- 1969: Clouds
- 1970: Ladies of the Canyon
- 1971: Blue
- 1972: For the Roses
- 1974: Court and Spark
- 1975: The Hissing of Summer Lawns
- 1976: Hejira
- 1977: Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter
- 1979: Mingus
- 1982: Wild Things Run Fast
- 1985: Dog Eat Dog
- 1988: Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm
- 1991: Night Ride Home
- 1974: Miles of Aisles
- 1980: Shadows and Light
- 1996: Hits
- 1996: Misses
- 2004: The Beginning of Survival
- 2004: Dreamland
- 2005: Songs of a Prairie Girl
- 2014: Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, a Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced