Joni Mitchell is a Canadian singer-songwriter whose full given name was Roberta Joan Anderson. Mitchell was born in Macleod — now Fort Macleod — Alberta on 7 November 1943, and had polio when she was nine. It was during her hospitalization that she began to sing for others, and later she taught herself to play guitar. She went to art college in Calgary, but soon left and moved to Toronto, where she married Chuck Mitchell, and then to New York. It was there, aged 25, she recorded her first album, Joni Mitchell (Song to a Seagull), doing her own vocals and playing acoustic guitar.
Mitchell’s second album, Clouds, a year later in 1969 made it into the Top 40 and won a Grammy, the first of five. Other important albums include Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, and Court and Spark. “Help Me,” in 1974, was her one Top 10 record. Later albums received some negative reviews, and Mitchell turned to painting, with a European exhibition in 1991. Mitchell was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Joni Mitchell announced her retirement from music in 2002, after Travelogue. Nevertheless, she released Shine in 2007 and it received more favorable reviews, citing a return of her vocal prowess. The same year, she was featured on a Canadian postage stamp.
Mitchell is perhaps best known for Judy Collins’ rendition of her song “Both Sides Now” and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s version of “Woodstock.” The songs she both wrote and sang the best-known version of include “Big Yellow Taxi,” “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio,” “Circle Game,” “Free Man in Paris,” “River,” “Help Me,” and “Chelsea Morning.”
Joni Mitchell’s music has influenced Tori Amos, Elvis Costello, Madonna, Mandy Moore, Morrissey, and Prince. Her works have been covered by Frank Sinatra, Counting Crows, Sarah McLachlan, George Michael, and Annie Lennox. Janet Jackson famously used a sample of “Big Yellow Taxi” in her single “Got ‘Til It’s Gone.”