Born: 1943 in Fort Macleod, Alberta
Genre: Folk, Pop, Adult Contemporary
- Juno Award for Female Vocalist of the Year (1976)
- U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1997)
- 9 Grammy Awards, including Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002
- Canada Walk of Fame (2000)
- Canadian Music Hall of Fame (1981)
- Blue was listed by Time magazine as among the “All-Time 100 Albums”
- Ranked 5th on VH1′s list of “The 100 Greatest Women of Rock N’ Roll” (1999)
- 19 Top 30, 17 Top 10, and 8 #1 Studio Albums in Canada
- 15 Top 30, 13 Top 10, and 3 #1 Studio Albums in the U.K.
- “The Circle Game” (1968)
- “Both Sides Now” (1969)
- “Big Yellow Taxi” (1970)
- “Carey” (1971)
- “A Case of You” (1971)
- “You Turn Me On I’m a Radio” (1972)
- “Raised on Robbery” (1973)
- “Help Me” (1974)
- “Free Man in Paris” (1974)
- “In France They Kiss on Main Street” (1975)
- “Coyote” (1976)
- “Good Friends” (1985)
- “Come in from the Cold” (1991)
“When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century.”—Jason Ankeny
Known more for her albums than hit singles (though she did have a number of these), Roberta Joan Anderson was born in Alberta but grew up in Saskatoon. She was treated for polio as a child. She started out learning piano but later switched to the guitar. She had bought a ukulele in her teens because she wasn’t able to afford a guitar. Like fellow folk musicians, Leonard Cohen, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ian and Sylvia, she relocated to Toronto, playing in coffee houses. In order to support herself she had to work during the day at Sears. Her first major performance was at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1965. She was pregnant with the child of her former boyfriend and gave birth to a girl. Feeling she was too young and busy, she gave her daughter up for adoption. She married U.S. folk singer Chuck Mitchell.
Other more established folk singers began performing Joni Mitchell’s songs, like “The Circle Game”. Her own recording didn’t happen until after she had met The Byrds’ David Crosby who was impressed enough with her talent to convince Reprise Records to sign her. In 1968 she released her debut album Song to a Seagull. Clouds followed in 1969 with her classic “Both Sides Now”. The song was perhaps too raw to become a commercial hit for Mitchell but its poppier cover by Judy Collins was a Top 10 hit in the U.S. (and, incidentally, Collins’ only Top 10 hit on the pop charts). Mitchell’s album cracked the Top 5 in Canada, Top 10 in Britain, and won a Grammy Award. She toured and performed at a fearsome pace, including serving as opener for Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
Joni’s first several albums sold in excess of half a million copies apiece in the U.S., charted even higher in Britain, and highest, naturally, in Canada. But she didn’t score a big hit single until 1970′s “Big Yellow Taxi”. It and its album Ladies of the Canyon topped the charts in Canada. And her “Woodstock” became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & (Neil) Young. Her first Top 30 U.S. hit was “You Turn Me On (I’m a Radio)” which came in 1972. In 1974, Mitchell became one of the first artists (well before the likes of Sting) to combine jazz and pop. Court and Spark became her most successful album with three hit singles: “Help Me”, “Free Man in Paris”, and “Raised on Robbery”.
In the 80s, “Blinded Me with Science’s” Thomas Dolby co-produced her venture into electronic rock—Dog Eat Dog and Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, and Billy Idol lent their voices to her Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (1988). She returned to her roots with a few releases in the 90s.
Joni Mitchell’s works have done better in Britain than in the U.S. and lavish references to her and her music are made in the 2003 British film Love, Actually.