Roberta Joan “Joni” Mitchell, CC (née Anderson; born November 7, 1943) is a Canadian singer-songwriter and painter.
Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in Saskatchewan 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.
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”.
At eleven, she moved with her family to the city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which she considers her hometown, among the Canadian prairies she has always found inspiring.
She responded badly to formal education, preferring a freethinking outlook, and was drawn to art, which was regarded as peripheral at that time.
One unconventional teacher did manage to get through to her, stimulating her to write poetry, and her first album included a dedication to him.
At twelfth grade, she flunked out (though she later picked up her studies) and hung out downtown with a rowdy set, until deciding that she was getting too close to the criminal world.
But art was still her chief passion at this stage, and when she finished high school at Aden Bowman Collegiate in Saskatoon, she took art classes at the Saskatoon Technical Collegiate with abstract expressionist painter Henry Bonli, and then left home to attend the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary.
Here she felt disillusioned at the high priority given to technical skill over free-class creativity, and also felt out of step with the trend towards pure abstraction, and the tendency to move into commercial art.
After a year, at age 19, she dropped out of school – a decision that much displeased her parents, who could remember the Great Depression and valued education highly.
In 1995 Mitchell became the fourth artist to receive Billboard’s Century Award (previous recipients were George Harrison, Billy Joel, and Buddy Guy).
It would seem that the award was made for Mitchell, since it recognizes artists who have not been accorded the acknowledgment they deserve.
Two years later, Mitchell was reunited with her daughter, Kilauren Gibb, and a grandson.
Though Mitchell had been quietly seeking her daughter and had written, however obliquely, of the matter in several songs (Blue’s “Little Green” and Wild Things’ “Chinese Café”), Kilauren began to suspect the connection when she received information about her biological parents that seemed to match facts posted on a fan’s Joni Mitchell Web page.
Mitchell skipped her 1997 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because she wanted to spend more time with her newly discovered family on her first Mother’s Day.