Joni Mitchell Is a Woman of Heart and Mind
Joni Mitchell: Painter, Singer, Songwriter, Musician, Poet, Activist, Pioneer, Risk-Taker
Joni Mitchell's talent is so sophisticated, complex and compelling that it is impossible to define with simple labels like "singer-songwriter," "painter," or "Canadian folk singer," although they all apply. Her music has inspired some of the most accomplished musicians in the industry, and has touched the lives of many individuals, including me. She is, as she has described herself in her music, "a woman of heart and mind." She seems to have an old soul, deep, beautiful, introspective, observant, and ever-evolving. She is a musical pioneer and a risk-taker, and the rest of us are the richer for it.
Courageously, she has been willing to strip away any defenses and bare that soul to anyone who chooses to know it. She has embraced life with an open heart and the courage to brave the hurts that inevitably accompany that choice. She is intentionally vulnerable, but in no way weak.
Joni Mitchell's strong will, fierce independence, stubbornness, strength of character and spirit come through in her music as she shows us the gamut of human experiences and emotions, from deepest despair through exuberant joy. She is a powerfully evocative artist: people tend to love her music and paintings or hate them, but it's almost impossible to be indifferent to them. She is a master of making people feel and experience. And isn't that the essential raison d'être of every artist?
Joni Mitchell puts it all out there with no filters: her own raw emotions — joy, pain, sorrow, love — her strong political views, her passion for everything she does and experiences. Her unique and deeply perceptive insights into the human heart and spirit touch her listeners' hearts and souls in a lasting way.
Music lovers around the globe are rooting for Joni and praying for her recovery from the brain aneurysm she suffered in late March, 2015. She was found unconscious in her home on March 30, 2015 and was hospitalized until late May, when she was moved to a rehabilitation center. Her long-time friend and fellow musician David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame, who dated Joni for a while back in the 1960's, said in a HuffPost Live interview that aired on June 26, 2015 that Mitchell "took a terrible hit" and that it was "a while" before anyone found her. Crosby said that she is home now, in care and recovering. "How that's going to go, we don't know yet...she’s going to have to struggle back from it the way you struggle back from a traumatic brain injury." He said that as far as he knows, Joni is not speaking yet, but that "She’s a tough girl and very smart. So how much she’s going to come back and when, I don’t know, and I’m not going to guess.” For updates on her recovery, see the section on Joni's March 2015 Brain Aneurysm and Recovery Process.
If you are a Joni fan, I hope this article gives you pleasure and adds a new dimension to your appreciation of her music, in particular. If you are new to Joni Mitchell's work, I hope this tribute will inspire you to experience the wondrous gift of her music and art.
Enjoy the ride!
An Intimate Portrait of Joni Mitchell
"Joni Mitchell - Woman of Heart and Mind: A Life Story" is a wonderful two-hour documentary - plus bonus material - of Joni Mitchell's life, loves, music and art, through interviews, concert footage, and more. It's a fabulous tribute to this amazing artist, and a must-see for fans of her music.
The Early Years
Roberta Joan Anderson was born on November 7, 1943 in McLeod, Alberta, Canada. She is the daughter of a teacher and an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force (who later became a grocer). She first became interested in singing at the age of nine, while recovering from polio during a hospital stay. A July, 1979 Rolling Stone interview by Cameron Crowe quotes Mitchell describing her first singing experience: "They said I might not walk again, and that I would not be able to go home for Christmas. I wouldn't go for it. So I started to sing Christmas carols and I used to sing them real loud ... The boy in the bed next to me, you know, used to complain. And I discovered I was a ham."
When she was eleven, Joni's family moved to Saskatoon (a city in Saskatchewan, Canada that she considers her hometown). As a teenager, she taught herself to play the guitar (and the ukulele!) and played for her friends at parties before getting coffeehouse gigs. After graduating from high school, she attended the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, where she met fellow singer-songwriter Harry Chapin. In 1964, after just one year of college, she decided to move to Toronto to become a professional folk singer. Around the same time, she found out that she had become pregnant by her former boyfriend from college.
Mid-to-Late 1960s - Making the Scene in the Big Apple
Motherhood and Marriage
Joni's music career began with singing gigs in small nightclubs in Western Canada, and then moved on to street performances in Toronto. But it wasn't until the mid-1960s that her music began to capture the attention of international audiences. She gave birth to a daughter. Kelly Dale, in 1965, and with her ex-boyfriend out of the picture, she married folksinger Chuck Mitchell a few weeks later. Although Joni had begun to make a name for herself as Joni Anderson, Chuck insisted that she start using his surname when they performed. In 1965, shortly after her daughter's birth, Joni gave her up for adoption and moved with her new husband to Detroit, Michigan, where she and Chuck performed regularly at local coffeehouses, bars and restaurants.
In 1967, her marriage to Chuck ended and she moved to New York City to pursue a solo singing career. She became a popular East Coast performer and began writing songs for herself and for other singers. Ironically, her first hit songs were recorded by other, better known artists such as Judi Collins ("Both Sides Now"), Buffy Sainte-Marie ("The Circle Game"), and Tom Rush ("Urge for Going"). It would be two years before Joni recorded them herself.
Debut Album: "Joni Mitchell" AKA "Song to a Seagull"
Musician David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash saw her perform in Florida and brought her to Los Angeles to introduce her to his friends. It was Crosby who convinced Reprise Records to let Joni record a solo acoustic album without the then-typical overdubs, and who produced her 1968 debut album, Song to a Seagull.
It was a two-part concept album: Part 1 (side one) was called, "I Came to the City" and Part 2 (side two) was called "Out of the City and Down to the Seaside."
With the exception of "Night in the City," Part 1's urban-themed songs were mostly about unhappy themes, including Mitchell's recent failed marriage, while Part 2 (as its title suggests) dealt with the sea and other nature-inspired themes.
Joni went on tour to promote the album, and started to make a name for herself.
Joni's Love Affair with Graham Nash
After a brief romantic relationship with David Crosby, in the fall of 1968 Joni and Graham Nash fell deeply in love. Graham Nash wrote about his love affair with Joni Mitchell in his autobiography, "Graham Nash's Wild Tales - A Rock & Roll Life". The preceding link will take you to an excerpt that mentions how their love affair began, courtesy of Radar Music.
1969 brought the release of her highly anticipated second album, Clouds, which contained her own recordings of "Chelsea Morning" and "Both Sides Now," already popular as a result of Judi Collins' versions. She designed and painted the covers of her first two albums, using a self-portrait as the cover of Clouds.
Fame and fortune
1970 was a big year for Joni. Her second album, Clouds, won the Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance. (This would be the first in a series of Grammys she would win during the course of her career.) The following month, David Crosby produced her third album for Reprise Records, Ladies of the Canyon. With this album, Joni made an obvious effort to break out of the "folk singer" label, and the album was more more "produced." There were more harmonies, with overdubbing of her own voice as well as background vocals, and the feel of the album was more folk-rock and pop than pure folk. A lot of the songs featured Joni's piano playing rather than guitar, something that would become part of her signature sound.
Ladies of the Canyon
In Ladies of the Canyon, Joni performed two of her songs that already had become popular in cover versions: "Woodstock" (a big hit for Crosby, Stills & Nash) and "The Circle Game" (which Buffy Sainte-Marie had popularized). Her own version of "Woodstock" was totally different in feel than the CS&N version, dark and moody. The album's biggest hit was "Big Yellow Taxi," which has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity with the increased consciousness about environmental concerns. The album would go on to sell half a million copies and become Joni's first gold album. It made Joni Mitchell a household name, and her songs filled the airwaves on FM radio. I was in my late teens, and I couldn't get enough of them. Ladies of the Canyon, began my lifelong love of her music. Melody Maker, the UK's leading pop music magazine, voted her the "Top Female Performer" for 1970.
Big Yellow Taxi
She decided to take the year off from touring so she could write, paint, and travel for pleasure, and the songs she wrote during that period would result in perhaps my favorite Joni Mitchell album, Blue, which came out in 1971.
Joni's fourth album had a dramatically different feel and sound from Ladies of the Canyon, mostly abandoning more highly "produced" sound (other than on the big single, "Carey") for a more stripped-down, acoustic sound that showcased the depth of emotion in her voice and her lyrics. It was just Joni and her guitar, or Joni and her piano. I loved every single song on it. (In fact, I started performing many of the songs in coffeehouses when I was in high school and college.) Blue was an instant hit, making it into the top 20 in the Billboard Album Charts. The songs ran the gamut of raw emotions, from the sheer joy of "California" and "Carey" to the intensity of the love songs, "All I Want" and "A Case of You," to the dark, blue moods evoked by the album's name — "Blue", "River," "The Last Time I Saw Richard".
Joni Mitchell's "Blue" Album
"We all suffer from our loneliness, but at the time of Blue our pop stars never admitted these things. Now, I'm a public person, and my life's an open book."— Joni Mitchell
My Old Man
Joni Mitchell's Fifth album: For the Roses
In 1972, Joni spent a lot of time on tour, and in October she released her fifth album, For the Roses. "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" became her first major hit single in February 1973, hitting #25 on the Billboard Charts. The album also included "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" and "For the Roses".
However, while critically acclaimed, this album never achieved the popular success of those that immediately preceded or followed it.
Court and Spark
In January, 1974 Joni released Court and Spark, which she produced herself. It was a huge hit among fans and critics alike and was her most commercially successful album, reaching #1 on the Cashbox Album Charts. The folk style of her early years was replaced with elements of jazz, jazz fusion, rock and pop, and hiring jazz/pop fusion band the L.A. Express to do backing vocals. The album was her most musically complex and interesting to date. It included the hits "Raised on Robbery", "Free Man in Paris," and "Help Me" (her only Top 10 single). Court and Spark evoked more joy and exuberance than her previous albums.
Raised on Robbery
Blue vs. Court and Spark?
Two of my favorite Joni Mitchell albums are Blue and Court and Spark. Which do you think is stronger?
Blue is the real deal!
Miles of Aisles
In February, 1974, Joni began touring with L.A. Express, and her live album, a two-record set called Miles of Aisles, was released in November based on recordings of some of those performances. In January 1975, Court and Spark was nominated for four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, although the album won only for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).
She ended the year on the cover of the December 16, 1974 issue of Time magazine for a story on "Rock Women - Songs of Pride and Passion".
Fall from grace and adventures in jazz (and beyond)
In 1975, Joni and her band (which by then included jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter) recorded her eighth album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns.
Album #8: The Hissing of Summer Lawns
Musically and creatively, it was more ambitious, more confident and more adventurous than any of her previous albums. What began as experimentation with jazz and jazz fusion in Court and Spark expanded into an eclectic fusion of jazz, pop, rock and world music.
There were African musicians and Burundi drums on the rhythmic "The Jungle Line," and sophisticated, dramatic, multi-layered a capella harmonies on "Shadows and Light."
Initially, the album sold well after its release in November, but the critics were scornful, and its success was short-lived. In 1976 she was nominated for the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, which was won by Linda Ronstadt.
Joni's ninth album, Hejira, was a much more intimate, poetic, daring and experimental album, written mostly in a car while traveling cross-country and back in 1976. It featured the bassist Jaco Pastorius (of Weather Report fame). The album got a fair amount of FM airplay, but produced no individual hit songs.
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter
In 1977, Joni recorded Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, a double studio album featuring a large number of supporting musicians and singers, including Jaco Pastorius, guitarist Larry Carlton, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, John Guerin on drums, and vocalists Chaka Khan, Glen Frey and J.D. Souther, among many other artists.
Her tenth album was musically ambitious, eclectic and complex, with a looser, less structured feel than its predecessors. It went gold within three months, but received mixed reviews. The controversial cover included a photo of Joni dressed and made up as a black man.
The Last Waltz
Joni was one of more than a dozen special guest artists along with Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood, Bobby Charles, Neil Young and The Staple Singers at "The Last Waltz," billed as the "farewell concert appearance" of The Band that was held in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day, 1976.
Martin Scorsese directed and filmed a documentary of the legendary concert. Released in 1978, "The Last Waltz" is considered by many to be one of the greatest concert films ever made. The New York Times called it "the most beautiful rock film ever made." Rolling Stone magazine called it "one of the most important cultural events of the last two decades."
Album #11: Mingus
Shortly after the release of Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, legendary jazz musician Charles Mingus contacted Joni to work on a collaboration. Joni's eleventh album. a collaboration with, inspired by and named after Mingus, included "God Must Be a Boogie Man."
Sadly, Charles Mingus died before the album named for him was completed in 1979. Other than "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" (one of Mingus' instrumentals to which Joni added lyrics), most of the tracks were Joni's own compositions that Mingus had inspired, and she completed this eleventh album on her own.
The press generally panned Mingus, and Joni's fans weren't sure what to make of this major musical shift. It was a commercial flop, despite a six-week summer tour with Jaco Pastorius, top jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, and other members of her band to promote the album. The opening act was The Persuasions, with whom she sang the classic "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"
Shadows and Light
Joni's 1979 summer concert tour featured an all-star lineup, including Pastorious, Metheny, The Persuasions, Michael Brecker, Lyle Mayes and Don Alias. The tour concluded with five shows at Los Angeles' Greek Theater that were recorded and filmed. The shows also included other jazz-inspired songs from her other albums.
Joni spent the next year editing the tapes into a two-album set — her first release on Asylum Records — and a concert film, both called Shadows and Light. The live double album was released in September 1980, and included "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" with The Persuasions.
Ironically, Shadows and Light was a critical and commercial success.
Shadows and Light - DVD of the 1979 concert tour film
"I thrive on change. That's probably why my chord changes are weird, because chords depict emotions."— Joni Mitchell
Joni in the 1980s
Joni worked on her next album, Wild Things Run Fast, for 1-1/2 years before it was released in 1982 on David Geffen's new label, Geffen Records.
Marriage to Bassist Larry Klein and a New Album
That same year, she married bassist Larry Klein, with whom she had worked on the album. The tracks had more of a pop flavor, and her remake of "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care", which Elvis had recorded on his 1959 album, A Date With Elvis, reached No. 47 on the Billboard charts. However, the album never got higher than No. 25 on Billboard.
A Successful 1983 World Tour...
Joni kicked off a world tour at the beginning of 1983, traveling to Japan, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Scandinavia before wrapping the tour back in the U.S.
... Made Into a Very Personal Concert Film
At the end of the successful tour, Joni and a hard-rocking band that included new husband Larry Klein and guitarist Mike Landau were videotaped performing the show on a soundstage. Those recordings were interspersed with a wide variety of footage from concerts, interspersed with clips from Joni Mitchell's and Larry Klein's home movies shot during the tour, and released as a home video, Refuge of the Roads.
The critically acclaimed concert film recorded was a seamless melange of pop, folk, jazz and rock, the performance features "Woodstock," "For Free," "Raised On Robbery," and many other wonderful tracks. It was recorded with a fabulous band that included bassist Klein, guitarist Landau, keyboardist Russell Ferrante and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.
Dog Eat Dog
At the end of 1984, at David Geffen's suggestion, Thomas Dolby was brought on to add a more modern, techno-pop element to her next album for Geffen Records, Dog Eat Dog, which was released in 1985.
The songs were imbued with highly controversial social and political commentary on issues ranging from the famine in Ethiopia to televangelists to religious right-wing politics. Many of the tracks included spoken vocals by Dolby and others (including Joni's husband, bassist Larry Klein), and background vocals from famous friends including James Taylor, Michael McDonald, and Don Henley.
"Good Friends" (a duet with Michael McDonald) and "Shiny Toys" were released as singles. A video of "Good Friends was produced using film animation by Jim Blashfield, a multi-award-winning filmmaker and media artist who also produced music videos in the 1980s and 1990s for Talking Heads, Nu Shooz, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Tears for Fears and Marc Cohn.
"Shiny Toys" was also released as a 12" Extended Dance Single remix with a more complete lyric than the album version and spoken vocals by Dolby.
The album itself was not well received by critics and peaked at only No. 63 on Billboard's Top Albums Chart.
Album #15: Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm
Joni's 1988 album, Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, also used synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers and contained social- and politically-themed lyrics, but also had a "world music" influence (thanks to Peter Gabriel) and featured vocal collaborations with Willie Nelson, Billy Idol, Wendy and Lisa, Tom Petty, Don Henley and Peter Gabriel.
The single "My Secret Place," a duet between Joni and Gabriel, just missed the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Critics' reviews of the album were mostly favorable, and it peaked at No. 45 on the charts.
Live interviews with Joni Mitchell
She's honest and tells it the way she sees it. She pulls no punches. This is the way to get to know Joni better - straight from the source!
1990-1998 - a Return to Form
Joni's music and voice matured during this decade, with some powerful new work and compelling re-workings of some of her earlier songs.
Roger Waters' "The Wall - Live in Berlin" - The epic 1990 live concert broadcast
Although she very rarely performed live any more, in 1990 she participated in Roger Waters' The Wall Concert in Berlin, singing "Goodbye Blue Sky" and joining Waters, Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Van Morrison and Paul Carrack on "The Tide Is Turning" to close the concert.
When the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989 symbolizing the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, former Pink Floyd bassist and singer Roger Waters was inspired to put together a live benefit concert (more than 2 hours long) to be broadcast on television.
It was a huge, theatrical spectacle and featured an astounding all-star lineup, with performances by Joni Mitchell, Bryan Adams, The Band, Thomas Dolby, Cyndi Lauper, Sinead O'Connor, Van Morrison, and Scorpions, among others, as well as a large German orchestra, a choir, and the Military Orchestra of the Soviet Union.
Night Ride Home
The rest of the year, Joni was hard at work on her next album, Night Ride Home, which was released in March, 1991. It was strikingly different from her previous work in recent years, returning to a simple but emotionally powerful acoustic sound that showcased her now deeper, huskier voice.
Critics and fans welcomed the change, and it premiered on Billboard's Top Album charts at No. 68 in the U.S., moving up to No. 48 in week two and peaking at No. 41 in its sixth week. In the UK, it premiered at No. 25 on the album charts.
Although the album produced no hit singles, serious Joni Mitchell fans consider it to be some of her best work.
Many consider Joni's sixteenth album to be her "return to form."
The 1994 album, Turbulent Indigo, was recorded at the same time as Joni's second marriage (to Klein), which had lasted just shy of 12 years, was ending in divorce, and also at a time when a younger generation of singer-songwriters were showing a strong interest in her music. Joni's 19th album, which combined sharply critical social commentary with guitar-focused melodies, won popular and critical acclaim, including two Grammy awards, one for Best Pop Album.
Joni Mitchell Hits (and Joni Mitchell Misses)
In 1996, Joni grudgingly allowed Reprise Records to release a greatest hits album — Joni Mitchell Hits — in exchange for their agreement to release Joni Mitchell Misses, an album of some of her lesser-known music, simultaneously.
The "Hits" album is the only one that contains her beautiful song, "Urge for Going."
Urge for Going
The "Misses" Album
Fighting for an album of "misses" would be a gutsy and confident move for any artist (although the band Devo had released a Hits and Misses album previously).
According to an article in Billboard by Melissa Newman on August 24, 1996, Joni described the 16 songs as, "not of what I consider my best work, but things that were commercially viable. Most of them are things that I would have chosen as singles. These are songs of experience, as opposed to the younger songs on the 'Hits' [album]." (You can read Newman's article on the library section of JoniMitchell.com. The hits album reached No. 6 on the UK charts, although in the U.S. it peaked only at No. 161.
1996 also was the year she was awarded the Polar Music Prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music Award.
1997: A Very Big Year for Joni Mitchell
In 1997, Joni finally was reunited with the daughter she had given up for adoption after she married Chuck Mitchell. Both Joni and Kelly Dale, renamed Kilauren Gibb.by her adoptive parents, had been searching for one another for several years. (Gibb's parents didn't tell her until 1992 that she had been adopted.) Joni reunited with Kilauren and also met young grandson, and they maintain a good relationship. This April 21, 1997 Time Magazine article has more details about how the reunion came about.
That same year, Joni was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Taming the Tiger
Joni released her next album, Taming the Tiger, in 1998; She promoted Tiger with a return to regular concert appearances, and did a tour where she shared the headline spot with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. Critics began to comment on her more limited vocal range and huskier vocals.
In the article February 11, 2007 article "Joni Mitchell: The Renaissance Woman" in the Sunday Times (UK), Robin Eggars wrote of Joni's singing on the album, "By then, her three-octave voice was a shadow of its former glory. 'I'd go to hit a note and there was nothing there,' she says. 'People blamed it on my smoking, but I have smoked since I was nine, so it obviously didn't affect my early work that much.' In fact, she had nodes from singing rock'n'roll, her larynx was compressed and there were physical problems caused by polio and playing guitar. Rest and some good healers have restored most of her power and range."
Joni Mitchell Trivia
- Was invited to play at Woodstock, but her manager refused to let her because she was scheduled to make her national television debut on "The Dick Cavett Show" (1968). He saw how bad the traffic was and told her that she wouldn't make it back in time. As a result, she wrote the classic song "Woodstock", which ironically became a hit for Crosby Stills Nash & Young, who did appear at the festival.
- Graham Nash wrote the song "Our House" about his and Joni's relationship.
- Joni was ranked #5 on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock N Roll.
- She was voted the 60th Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artist of all time by Rolling Stone.
- Led Zeppelin's song "Going to California" is a tribute to her.
1999-2002: A Hiatus from Writing
Critics called "Taming the Tiger" too negative, and it would be another nine years before Joni would release any new original work. In the interim, in order to fulfill contractual obligations, she put out two more albums on which she reinterpreted familiar songs using her evolving, deeper alto vocal range and orchestral accompaniments. Her 2000 album Both Sides Now, which received mostly positive reviews, consisted mainly of covers of jazz standards, with orchestral arrangements by Vince Mendoza, plus new versions of her early hits "A Case of You" and "Both Sides Now." The studio recording of "Both Sides Now" featured the London Symphony Orchestra. However, during Joni's short, successful national tour with a core band (featuring her ex-husband, bassist Larry Klein), they were joined at each stop by a local orchestra.
In 2002 she released her next album, Travelogue, in which she continued to reinterpret her earlier songs with lavish orchestral arrangements.
Travelogue - Joni Mitchell's 2002 Double Album
Although Joni didn't write any original music during this introspective period, she did release two albums reinterpreting songs she had written previously and also reinterpreting old standards like "Stormy Weather."
The second was her 22nd album, Travelogue, which actually was a double album.
It brought her unique twist on jazz-based vocal stylings, a 70-piece orchestra, a 20-person choir, and some heavy-hitting jazz musicians, to to bear on two discs' worth of her own previously published songs.
2002-2005 - A Temporary Retirement From Writing and Recording Music
In 2002, Joni announced that Travelogue would be her last album. She told a Rolling Stone interviewer that she thought the music industry had become a "cesspool" and that she no longer wanted to be part of the record industry machine. Through 2005, she released only compilation albums of her earlier work.
In 2003, all her recordings for Geffen Records were remastered and released, along with some never-before-heard track, as a four-disc boxed set appropriately titled "The Complete Geffen Recordings."
Her next three albums were themed compilations of songs from previous albums: The Beginning of Survival released in 2004, Dreamland (released later that year), and Songs of a Prairie Girl, which was released in 2005 after she accepted an invitation to the Saskatchewan Centennial concert in Saskatoon, which featured a tribute to Joni and also was attended by Queen Elizabeth II.
Joni also worked on her autobiography, for which she had signed a contract with Random House in the early 1990s, made occasional public appearances to speak out on environmental issues, and collaborated with acclaimed artist Gilles Hebert on a book called "Voices" that garnered international attention for them both.
Joni Mitchell - 2-DVD Collectors' Edition Set
This special 2-disc collectors' edition set includes Painting with Words and Music (1998), a live concert on the Warner Brothers lot in Los Angeles with a small, intimate audience, performed against a stage backdrop of Joni's own paintings, and Woman of Heart and Mind, the 2003 PBS American Masters biography of Joni's life, career, and prolific art.
2006-Present - Renewed Success, Serious Health Issues
In October 2006, Joni told The Ottawa Citizen that she was "recording her first collection of new songs in nearly a decade", and in February 2007 she told The New York Times that the upcoming album was inspired by the Iraq war and "something her grandson had said while listening to family fighting: 'Bad dreams are good-in the great plan.'"Unsurprisingly, the lyrics on Shine (which was released in September of 2007) focused on political and environmental issues. The album, her twenty-seventh, debuted at number 14 on the Billboard 200 album chart, her highest chart position in the U.S. since Hejira's 1976 release, thirty-one years earlier.
More Recent Work and Tributes, From 2007 to the Present
Joni's 2007 album, Shine, was her first album of new songs in nearly a decade.
In February 2007, she returned to Calgary to serve as an advisor for the Alberta Ballet Company premiere of the environmentally-themed ballet, "The Fiddle and the Drum", a collaboration between Joni Mitchell and internationally acclaimed choreographer Jean Grand-Maître of the Alberta Ballet Company that combines music, dance, and art to convey the core message. She also filmed some of the rehearsals to use as footage in a documentary about the making of the ballet.
On the same day as the release of Shine (September 25, 2007), Joni's long-time friend and collaborator Herbie Hancock released a tribute album, River: The Joni Letters. Also performing on the album were Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen, and Joni herself. On February 10, 2008, it won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards - the first time in 43 years that a jazz artist took the top prize at the Grammys. It was a good night for Joni, who also won her own Grammy for Best Instrumental Pop Performance for Shine's opening song, "One Week Last Summer."
In 2009, the documentary film The Fiddle and The Drum was released. Joni said she considered it "the best project of her career."
On February 12, 2010, an aerialist performed to her iconic song "Both Sides Now" at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, as part of a tribute to Canada's resources.
The 2009 video of the ballet The Fiddle and The Drum
Joni's Battle with Morgellons Syndrome
Mitchell is being treated successfully treatment for Morgellons syndrome. In a Los Angeles Times interview published on April 22, 2010, she said, "I have this weird, incurable disease that seems like it's from outer space, but my health's the best it's been in a while...I don't look so bad under incandescent light, but I look scary under daylight...Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral. Morgellons is a slow, unpredictable killer - a terrorist disease: it will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year. But I have a tremendous will to live: I've been through another pandemic — I'm a polio survivor, so I know how conservative the medical body can be. In America, the Morgellons is always diagnosed as 'delusion of parasites,' and they send you to a psychiatrist. I'm actually trying to get out of the music business to battle for Morgellons sufferers to receive the credibility that's owed to them."
Joni's March 2015 Brain Aneurysm and Recovery Process
As I said in the introduction to this article, Joni Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm some time in late March, 2015 and was not found until March 30th or 31st (depending on which source you believe), when she was rushed to the hospital. She remained hospitalized until late May, when she was moved to a rehabilitation facility.
According to long-time friend David Crosby, Joni is now being cared for at home and is recovering, although the extent of her eventual recovery is yet to be seen. Those of us who love her are hopeful that the strength and courage she has always shown throughout her life will help her make as full a recovery as is possible under the circumstances.
According to an October 15, 2015 news article on NME magazine's website, Judy Collins shared on Facebook that Joni is making good progress and is now walking, talking and painting as she recovers from the aneurysm. Mitchell's attorney, Rebecca J. Thyne, recently told People magazine that "she has made remarkable progress. She has physical therapy each day and is expected to make a full recovery."
That's wonderful news for all of us who love and admire Joni Mitchell!
Joni Mitchell Turned 70 in 2013
Joni Mitchell Lyrics - The Official Joni Mitchell Song Lyrics on JoniMitchell.com
Joni Mitchell's lyrics will touch your heart, inflame your passions, and stimulate your brain. Her intense, authentic, and beautiful poetry is powerful enough to move you with or without music.
Reading her lyrics is a very different experience than listening to them together with the music of her songs, and equally worthwhile. Set aside some quiet time to immerse yourself in her lyrics. I recommend savoring the lyrics from only one or two songs at a time and allowing them to sink in, and then coming back to read a few more, stretching out the experience over time to get the most out of it.
While developing the content for this article, in addition to the attributions throughout the text I also used the following information sources: "David Crosby confirms Joni Mitchell had an aneurysm: 'She's a tough girl'" (June 26, 2015), JoniMitchell.com, Biography for Joni Mitchell at imdb.com, Joni Mitchell page on Wikipedia, Time Magazine article "Joni - No Longer Blue" (April 21, 1997), The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Joni Mitchell page, and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame Joni Mitchell page.
© 2010 Margaret Schindel