After announcing she was ready to quit the ‘cesspool that passed for the record business’, declaring she ‘couldn’t take any more stupidity’, Joni Mitchell has ‘returned’ with a brand new collection of songs, as political and environmentally conscious as ever. ‘I really believed I was never going to make another record’, she admitted ‘I convinced a lot of people and oops, here it came.’
Joni Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson on November 7th 1943 in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada. As a child of seven, she took up piano lessons, but eventually gave them up a year and a half later, claiming she found playing other people’s music ‘stifling’. Instead, as a free-spirited teenager, she taught herself how to play the guitar. It was at this time that she started performing at parties and playing in coffeehouses and other small venues, before finally moving to Los Angeles in 1967. However, much of Mitchell’s first acclaim came from other people’s covers of her songs and it wasn’t until a year later that she was able to release her debut album ‘Song to a Seagull’.
Joni (who took her surname Mitchell from a brief marriage to folk singer Chuck Mitchell) achieved a higher musical maturity with her third album ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ in 1970 and a wider critical acclaim with the confessional album ‘Blue’ in 1971. It was also with ‘Blue’ that Joni’s music started heading towards rock’n roll (her previous albums having had a folksy feeling about them), a genre developed further in ‘For the Roses’ (1972) and ‘Court and Spark’ (1974). In the latter you can also point out echoes of Jazz music, a genre Joni would focus on for the rest of the 70s in ‘The Hissing Summer Lawns’ (1975), ‘Hejira’ (1976), ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’ (1977) and ‘Mingus’ (1979), a collaboration with famous bassist Charles Mingus, who sadly passed away before the album’s completion.
Unfortunately, Joni, herself became less prolific during the 80s and 90s and her releases were fewer and far between. Still, her political voice was louder than ever in recordings such as ‘Dog Eat Dog’ (1984) and ‘Chalk Marks in a Rainstorm’ (1988). It is such a voice, socially conscious and outspoken that can be heard in her latest album ‘Shine’. Aside from this new album Joni Mitchell (also a gifted painter), has also recently put together an exhibition of her war-and-revolution-inspired painting and a ballet with Jean Grand-Maitre ‘The Fiddle and the Drum’.Not too bad for someone who was supposed to be in retirement (Joni’s last album had been ‘Taming the Tiger’ in 1998): ‘I wasn’t ready for retirement’, she candidly told British magazine Word ‘for gardening and watching old movies, which was what I had been doing for 10 years’... And aren’t we thankful for that!
For more information on Joni Mitchell check out www.jonimitchell.com