Some musicians have the gift of conveying vulnerability and inner turmoil beautifully with their voice, bringing tears to our eyes. Some rule the recording studio with an iron hand, supervising and producing their music on their own. Others can play the strings like no other, and yet, a third kind can weave stories through the chords and write songs that would not seem out of place in a poetry book. Not many can do it all, but Joni can.
Joni Mitchell (née Anderson) grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada, and was a bright, wild and strong-willed child. At the age of nine, she caught polio, which greatly weakened her left hand, and this would later cause her to seek alternative and creative tunings to compensate for her difficulty playing certain chords. It was during that time that Joni first started pondering artistic endeavors as her life’s goal. At the age of 12, she dropped out of school and started playing the ukulele, though at that time, painting was still her first passion.
It was only after dropping out from school again, this time art school, that Mitchell decided to seek a career in music, leaving Saskatchewan for Ontario. Her beginnings were marked by hardship and poverty. Lacking the means to join the musician’s union, she had to resort to play in small venues and as a street performer. It was at this time that she became pregnant, and because abortion was not even an option at the time, she had to put her baby up for adoption as she could barely care for herself financially. This painful story was featured in two of her songs: Little Green and Chinese Café.
Her tenacity paid off, as she began making a name for herself as a songwriter, and later, as a performer. She has produced each and every one of her albums, as well as painted every one of her illustrated album covers, and quite often, she performs on her own, requiring neither drums, nor bass, nor vocal accompaniment. Here are some of her greatest, most powerful songs: