Born: November 7, 1943; Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada
When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century. Uncompromising and iconoclastic, Mitchell confounded expectations at every turn; restlessly innovative, her music evolved from deeply-personal folk stylings into pop, jazz, avant-garde, and even world music, presaging the multi-cultural experimentation of the 1980s and 1990s by over a decade. Fiercely independent,Read more 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 like Carole King, Janis Joplin, or Aretha Franklin, none experimented so recklessly with their artistic identities or so bravely explored territory outside of the accepted confines of pop music. The commercial and critical approval awarded her landmark 1971 record Blue was unprecedented: a luminous, starkly confessional set, it firmly established Mitchell as one of pop music's most remarkable and insightful talents. Predictably, she turned away from Blue's incandescent folk with 1972's For the Roses, the first of the many major stylistic turns she would take over the course of her daring career. Backed by rock-jazz performer Tom Scott, Mitchell's music began moving into more pop-oriented territory, a change typified by the single "You Turn Me On (I'm a Radio)," her first significant hit. The follow-up, 1974's classic Court and Spark, was her most commercially successful outing: a sparkling, jazz-accented set, it reached the number two spot on the U.S. album charts and launched three hit singles -- "Help Me," "Free Man in Paris," and "Raised on Robbery." 1975's The Hissing of Summer Lawns was a bold, almost avant-garde record which housed her increasingly complex songs in experimental, jazz-inspired settings; "The Jungle Line" introduced the rhythms of African Burundi drums, placing her far ahead of the pop world's mid-'80s fascination with world music. Read less
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