Musicheads Essential Artist: Joni Mitchell


Joni Mitchell
For her bold and passionate approach to music, Joni Mitchell is a Musicheads Essential Artist (Courtesy of the artist / MPR graphic)
Musicheads Essential Artist: Joni Mitchell
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A singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and visual artist: Joni Mitchell was born in Alberta, Canada in 1943 and moved to the United States in 1965, ultimately moving to Los Angeles and signing to Reprise Records. She released her debut album, Song to a Seagull, in 1968 and from there, her recording career took off. She won a Grammy for her sophomore album, Clouds, and her third record, 1970's Ladies of the Canyon, broke her into the FM radio mainstream.

Throughout the 1970s, Mitchell began to experiment deeply. Her 1974 album Court and Spark marked a turning point in Mitchell's career as she began dabbling in different genres — most notably, jazz. She collaborated with greats like Jaco Pastorius, Herbie Hancock, and Charles Mingus.

As a guitarist, Mitchell is highly regarded for her use of alternate tunings, which allow her to explore intricate harmonics and textures. Mitchell herself has referred to these tunings as "Joni's weird chords" — devised as a result of limitations in her left hand, a lingering complication of polio which she contracted as a child.

Joni Mitchell's complex, emotionally intimate songwriting has earned her widespread acclaim as one of the most brilliant musical voices of her generation. Her nuanced confessional style has gone on to inspire songwriters including Madonna, Taylor Swift, Haim, and Lorde. Joni Mitchell songs have been covered by the likes of Prince and sampled in songs by Janet Jackson and Kanye West.

Always critical of the recording industry, Mitchell released her last album in 2007 and stepped away from touring that same year. She's won nine Grammy Awards; and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

As a multi-talented artist, Joni Mitchell's imprint on music, arts, and culture can't be overstated.

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