You'd be hard-pressed to find a female musician more affecting in the '60s than Joni Mitchell. Thanks to songs like "Big Yellow Taxi," "Woodstock" and "Both Sides, Now," Mitchell — who Rolling Stone has dubbed one of the greatest songwriters ever — helped define the decade and beyond. The '60s simply wouldn't have been the same without her.
Mitchell has always had a flair for the unique — her distinctive guitar style and super-broad vocal spectrum prove unparalleled. As her career grew, Mitchell began experimenting more with her music by studying jazz and working with venerable jazz musicians like Herbie Hancock and Charles Mingus. The resulting compositions were a mix of jazz, rock and roll and R&B. She was even one of the first musicians to toy with electronic music, or EDM. Sound familiar? Due to Mitchell's innovations in folk and pop music, the 71-year-old artist is the predecessor of today's pop-folk and other pop-hybrid musicians like Ed Sheeran.
It's hard to believe a woman of such immense talent who has made such a tremendous mark on the musical world was ever turned away, but it's true. Early in her career, Mitchell turned to busking — performing in the street — when all of the major folk clubs rejected her. To help pay the bills, she says she "worked in the women's wear section of a downtown department store."
These days, the division of labor is often hyper-delegated. There are producers and backup singers and agents and a hundred other people that have their hand in hit songs. Mitchell, though, is the only record producer listed on most of her albums. Think that's impressive? She also relied on her background in visual arts to design the artwork for her albums over the years.
When it comes to using her voice, Mitchell is a pro both on the stage and off — she has never been afraid to stand up for the things she believes in. In 2002, Mitchell described the current music industry as a "cesspool" to Rolling Stone, and in 2007, following years of criticizing the music industry, walked away from touring altogether. In fact, as she jokes in the following clip, she actually "gave" many of her most well-known songs to other artists more partial to the spotlight.
How could one even begin to quantify the profound impact Mitchell has had on the music industry? The folk singer's super-fans include Taylor Swift, Prince and Madonna — all who cite her as a major influence. This Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's songs have been covered by everyone from Hole and Counting Crows to Janet Jackson and Kanye West (sampled). And that doesn't even cover the references made to Mitchell in pop culture, from John Mayer's "Queen of California" to this little gem of a scene from the Sandra Bullock/Nicole Kidman flick Practical Magic, which sees Kidman's character singing "A Case of You":
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