Legal name: Roberta Joan Anderson
Roberta Joan "Joni" Mitchell, CC (née Anderson; born November 7, 1943) is a Canadian singer-songwriter and painter. Mitchell's work is highly respected by critics, and she has deeply influenced fellow musicians in a diverse range of genres. Rolling Stone has called 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". Her lyrics are noted for their developed poetics, addressing social and environmental ideals alongside personal feelings of romantic longing, confusion, disillusion, and joy.
Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in Saskatchewan and western Canada and then busking in the streets and shoddy nightclubs 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 debut album in 1968. Settling in Southern California, Mitchell, with popular songs like "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock", helped define an era and a generation. Her 1971 recording Blue was rated the 30th best album ever made in Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Mitchell switched labels and began moving toward jazz rhythms by way of lush pop textures on 1974's Court and Spark, her best-selling LP, featuring the radio hits "Help Me" and "Free Man in Paris".
Her wide-ranging contralto vocals and distinctive open-tuned guitar and piano compositions grew more harmonically and rhythmically complex as she explored jazz, melding it with influences of rock and roll, R&B, classical music, and non-western beats. In the late 1970s, she began working closely with noted jazz musicians, among them Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, and Charles Mingus, who asked her to collaborate on his final recordings. She turned again toward pop, embraced electronic music, and engaged in political protest.
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".