Joni Mitchell – Poetic Lyricist

Joni Mitchell – Poetic Lyricist

Being one of the most highly regarded songwriters of the 20th century, it’s really hard to not appreciate what she brings to the table musically. What makes her music so special is the authentic lyrics and how each song is so personal to her. With her wide-ranging three octave voice and soaring vocals you would think she would be a diva. Nope! For her it wasn’t about the hype of being a star. But instead, just being an artist and having that artistic freedom to do things her way. Whether it’s writing songs, performing, painting etc. She can do it all! Joni is an artist that isn’t easy to categorize. In fact, she abhors this, and that’s one of the things which makes her great. 


Furthermore, Joni Mitchell has been nominated for 17 Grammy Awards and won 10 of them, along with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Rolling Stone calls her “one of the greatest songwriters ever”, and AllMusic has stated, “When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”.  


Being so fiercely independent, I’m sure it was completely frustrating at times for the music labels to work with her. But, in the long run, letting her just be herself paid off for them. Because even during these trying times today, her music is still quite relevant. Back then besides being a great songwriter/singer. She’s also known for her guitar playing which was also ground-breaking. Her alternate tunings were amazing. She made everything look so effortless, from her playing to her singing. She’s brilliant beyond words. What a profound talent she is and how lucky we are to have her. 


Her Songwriting Career

Joni Mitchell began her career singing folk songs and writing lyrics that would be performed by musicians like Judy Collins and Fairport Convention. She first becomes famous for the song “Both Sides Now”, a song that she wrote for Collins. Later, she gets recognition as a performer in the New York music scene. Furthermore, Mitchell loves to jump around genres starting out with folk music in the 1960s and then to rock and jazz.


Seriously, it doesn’t matter what genre she performs because she’s going to integrate other styles and elements into it depending on what she’s feeling at the moment. In an interview she did, she tells the interviewer that when she writes her songs, she considers them done and moves on. Further explaining that she ends up critiquing them if she listens to them. She prefers to create and move on. 


Amazing to think that in these early days, Joni had only just begun her voyage of genius. Hard to believe that Hejira, Court and Spark and the rest of her wonderful catalogue was still inside this woman’s mind. Or perhaps we knew, right from the start, that we would be embarking on a lifelong journey with one of the truly great poets of our time. With this album she adds more musicians and truly expands her sound. It’s features some of Joni Mitchell’s most ethereal and haunting melodies.


A Much – Needed Journey

While most musicians embrace the popularity, it’s during this time that Mitchell moves away from music and touring. By the mid-’70s, ” she’s taking a break from music to check out other forms of art. While taking the time to forge her own future and artistic path. As the story goes, she had just finished a tour and instead of taking a break at home, she decides to travel, not sure where she wants to go or with who. By chance, two friends invite her to drive cross-country.


They travel together for a while before Mitchell goes off on her own. She ends up taking three trips between 1975 and 1976, which takes her from Los Angeles to Maine, then California via Florida and the Gulf Of Mexico. During this time, she was staying at hotels or sleeping in her car while writing songs on her guitar. What a cathartic experience it must have been for her to go through. Besides giving her new experiences to write songs for. Which is what happens, leaving all the stress behind she has a new frame of mind and some new directions to consider musically.  


Hejira Album – Two Innovators at work

As a result of her road trips, Mitchell goes off road with a new album and a new direction. Which at the time is quite refreshing for her as well. Delving deeper into her soul, she tries her hand at jazz but in a different way than the norm. Not in your face but instead lighter tones, adding some percussion but not over the top. Adding acoustic and electric guitar as well along with Jaco Pastorius’ adding his magical touches on the fretless bass ( Weather Report, Metheny). 


Along with Tom Scott (Blues Brothers, LA Express), Charles Findley (Tonight Show Band), Abe Most (Benny Goodman), Neil Young on harmonica, Victor Feldman (Miles Davis, Steely Dan), Larry Carlton – Electric & Acoustic guitar,  Max Bennett (session musician / LA Express), Chuck Domanico (Sinatra, Taj, Chet baker, Mancini, etc.), John Guerin – Percussionist (Sinatra, Mitchell, George Harrison, Zappa, etc.), and Bobbye Hall  – (Carole King, Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, Diana Ross and so many more elite performers).  



Basically, she’s taking the minimalistic approach with this album. Thus, creating an almost meditative musical background while highlighting her vocals. Sounds crazy but the Hejira album is one of my favorites! It’s very improvisational and all over the place musically. But the lyrics are so fantastic (obviously). When it came to the name, she was looking for a word that meant running away with honor. Then she found the Hejira while reading the dictionary and connected with it. The album is very intimate and personal. Almost sounding like she’s free from her past and embracing the moments ahead of her. My favorites are “Coyote”, “Furry Sings The Blues” and “Black Crowe.” 


Joni Mitchell – The Painter

Most consider her an iconic musician and songwriter. But there’s also the other project that she enjoys just as much as music and that’s painting.  Already having an incredible career in music, it kind of does make sense for her to be just as amazing when it comes to her art. There are many galleries that carry her work that you should check out. While I would love to write more about her, there’s so much to her story and career and all the projects that she’s done. Check out the books that are available about her. Better yet, check her out albums or any of the music streaming sites.


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