Joni Mitchell as a musical artist, has been restlessly innovative, her music evolved from deeply personal folk styling into pop, jazz, avant-garde, and even world music, presaging the multicultural experimentation of the 1980s and 1990s by over a decade. Fiercely independent, her work steadfastly resisted the whims of both mainstream audiences and the male-dominated recording industry. While Mitchell's records never sold in the same numbers enjoyed by contemporaries, none experimented so recklessly with their artistic identities or so bravely explored territory outside of the accepted confines of pop music, resulting in a creative legacy which paved the way for performers in a broad range of genres to cover her songs.
Born Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort McLeod, Alberta, Canada, on November 7, 1943, she was stricken with polio at the age of nine; while recovering in a children's hospital, she began her performing career by singing to the other patients. After later teaching herself to play guitar with the aid of a Pete Seeger instruction book, she went to art school, and became a fixture on the folk music scene around Alberta. After relocating to Toronto, she married folksinger Chuck Mitchell in 1965, and began performing under the name Joni Mitchell.
A year later the couple moved to Detroit, MI, but separated soon after; Joni remained in the Motor City, however, and won significant press acclaim for her burgeoning songwriting skills and smoky, distinctive vocals, leading to a string of high-profile performances in New York City. There she became a cause célèbre among the media and other performers; after she signed to Reprise in 1967; David Crosby offered to produce her debut record, a self-titled acoustic effort that appeared the following year. Her songs also found great success with other singers: in 1968, Judy Collins scored a major hit with the Mitchell-penned "Both Sides Now," while Fairport Convention covered "Eastern Rain" and Tom Rush recorded "The Circle Game."
Thanks to all of the outside exposure, Mitchell began to earn a strong cult following; her 1969 sophomore effort, “Clouds,” reached the Top 40, while “Ladies of the Canyon” (’70) did better on the strength of the singles "Big Yellow Taxi," and "Woodstock," a major hit for Crosby Stills Nash & Young. The commercial and critical approval awarded her landmark 1971 record “Blue” was unprecedented: a luminous, starkly confessional set written primarily during a European vacation, the album firmly established Mitchell as one of pop music's most remarkable and insightful talents.