Saturday, February 27, 2010

One of the Greatest Songwriters - Joni Mitchell

By Jeff Bachmeier

Joni Mitchell is one of those performers that seem to be relevant no matter what the decade. Just this year, during the 2010 Olympics, she was asked to perform during the opening ceremonies singing one of her songs "Both Sides Now."

Joni Mitchell, a Canadian musician and songwriter, began performing in the mid-1960s and has never turned back. Writing songs seems to come natural to Mitchell, making her one of the most prolific writers in history. Rolling Stone magazine has gone as far to coin Mitchell as "one of the greatest songwriters ever". Many a musician has been greatly influenced by Mitchell's daring and innovative style.

As her career has stretched from the late 60s to now, it has also varied in that timeframe, with music ranging from confessional folk-pop songs to jazz-inflected experiments and multicultural world music. Songs she has written either have become well known through her voice or through the recreation of others. Mitchell's "Woodstock" went mainstream through the performance of it by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Many artists have enjoyed covering Mitchell Songs. Judy Collins took "Both Sides Now" and sent it up the charts to No. 8 in 1967. Annie Lennox covered "Ladies Of The Canyon" for the B-side of her 1995 hit "No More I Love You's". George Michael covered "Edith And The Kingpin" in 2004. Many of Mitchell's songs have been performed by numerous artists. Dianne Reeves, James Taylor, Allison Crowe, Rachel Yamagata, Aimee Mann and Sarah McLachlan have performed "River". Tori Amos, Michelle Branch, Jane Monheit, Prince and Diana Krall have sung "A Case Of You".

So how did this amazing artist first get discovered? Of course it was by starting small and singing in small nightclubs in her native Western Canada. She then began performing in the United States, becoming a critical sensation on the Detroit folk scene. In 1967 she signed with Reprise Records and in 1968 released her first album. On that album was "Both Sides Now", one of Mitchell's most notorious songs of her career.

Mitchell's album "Blue", released in 1971, reached platinum standings. It featured songs "Carey", "My Old Many" and "The Last Time I Saw Richard". Her song "Clouds" won her a first Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance.

Mitchell's voice has been easily recognized over the years for its distinctive harmonic guitar style. Her piano arrangements grew more complex through the 1970s as she became more deeply influenced by jazz, melding with pop, folk and rock.

Between 1975 to 1980, Mitchell began experimenting with jazz pieces. The transition was at first difficult. Her album "Hejira", written in 1976, is considered one of her most experimental albums ever. Audiences enjoyed the new sound but felt a bit confused due to the huge change in style. Her albums during this decade fell short of gold status and never reached the success that her first album had.

In 1980 she released "Shadows and Light" and her single "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" reached No. 38 on Billboard Charts. In 1983 Mitchell began a world tour visiting Japan, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and then back to the United States. Throughout the 80s, Mitchell began experimenting with synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers for the release of her album "Chalk Mark In A Rain Storm". With the album she collaborated with artists Willie Nelson, Billy Idol, Wendy and Lisa, Tom Petty, Don Henley and Peter Gabriel. Songs leaned toward more political themes. Her genre of style began to shift into world music.

By 1990, Mitchell rarely performed live anymore but continued putting out albums. In 1994 she released the Grammy winning "Turbulent Indigo". In 1996 it was her "Hits" collection that reached No. 161 in US and No. 6 in the UK. In 1998, Mitchell's style shifted again with the release of "Taming The Tiger". Mitchell's voice began to change as well. In 2002, Mitchell stated in an interview with Rolling Stone that she was retiring and that she was disgruntled with the music industry. But in 2006 she released the album "Shine", which was inspired by the war in Iraq, political and environmental issues.

We haven't heard the last of Joni Mitchell yet, despite her years of success, it is quite possible she still has a few good songs left to be written and performed.

Jeff Bachmeier is owner of, an online music and online radio station network providing live streaming Internet Radio channels with music from the 50's thru Today. Users can also choose to create their own customized on demand playlist through their own social media profile. For more information please visit

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