Dopo una gavetta tra café canadesi e locali statunitensi nei quali germogliava e veniva alla luce una nuova generazione di musicisti folk, Joni Mitchell ottenne il successo commerciale alla fine degli anni ’60, definendo uno stile che farà epoca e sarà fonte d’ispirazione per tutte le cantautrici dei decenni successivi. Il suo impatto sul cantautorato al femminile, di cui è considerata la vera capostipite, è paragonabile a quello di artisti come Bob Dylan, Neil Young o Eric Andersen su quello dei colleghi uomini. Col passare del tempo, il folk verrà sempre più relegato al passato per dar spazio a nuove sonorità vicine al blues e aljazz che la porteranno a collaborazioni prestigiose con artisti del calibro di Metheny, Pastorius, Hancock, Brecker e Mingus.
Joni Mitchell non è solo nota per la sua musica sofisticata e i suoi testi estremamente ricercati e poetici, ma anche per la sua passione e talento per le arti pittoriche. È lei stessa infatti a dire: “Sono prima di tutto una pittrice, poi una musicista…”. Cura personalmente la grafica e le copertine dei propri album, utilizzando la maggior parte delle volte quadri ma spesso anche elaborazioni fotografiche.
Roberta Joan “Joni” Mitchell, CC (née Anderson; born November 7, 1943) is a Canadian singer-songwriter and painter. Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs inSaskatchewan and Western Canada and then busking in the streets and dives of Toronto. In 1965, she moved to the United States and began touring. Some of her original songs (“Urge for Going”, “Chelsea Morning“, “Both Sides, Now“, “The Circle Game”) were covered by folk singers, allowing her to sign with Reprise Records and record her own debut album in 1968.
Settling in Southern California, Mitchell, with popular songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock“, helped define an era and a generation. Her 1971 recording Blue was rated the 30th best album ever made in Rolling Stone‘s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time“. Mitchell switched labels and began moving toward jazz rhythms by way of lush pop textures on 1974’s Court and Spark, her best-selling LP, featuring the radio hits “Help Me” and “Free Man in Paris“.
Her wide-ranging contralto vocals and distinctive open-tuned guitar and piano compositions grew more harmonically and rhythmically complex as she explored jazz, melding it with influences of rock and roll, R&B, classical music, and non-western beats. In the late 1970s, she began working closely with noted jazz musicians, among them Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, and Charles Mingus; the latter asked her to collaborate on his final recordings. She turned again toward pop, embraced electronic music, and engaged in political protest.
She is the sole record producer credited on most of her albums, including all her work in the 1970s. With roots in visual art, she has designed her own album artwork throughout her career. A blunt critic of the music industry, she quit touring and released her 17th, and reportedly last, album of original songs in 2007. She describes herself as a “painter derailed by circumstance”.
Mitchell has deeply influenced fellow musicians in a diverse range of genres, and her work is highly respected by critics. AllMusic said, “When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”, and Rolling Stone called her “one of the greatest songwriters ever”. Her lyrics are noted for their developed poetics, addressing social and environmental ideals alongside personal feelings of romantic longing, confusion, disillusion, and joy.