Joni Mitchell‘s individuality set her apart from her singer-songwriter peers in the ’70s. And it was that individuality that kept her interesting while so many of her friends and contemporaries eventually became irrelevant or strayed from the path, as you’ll see in our list of Joni Mitchell Albums Ranked Worst to Best.
She came from Canada, but her move to Los Angeles quickly pegged her as one of Laurel Canyon’s most identifiable and representative artists. From the start, she was more autobiographical and personal than other folksingers of the period. By the time she made her masterpiece Blue in 1971, she had evolved the spare sound found on her first couple of albums to include minimal but vital accompaniment that elevated her songs to new levels.
Mitchell was restless too and – coupled with her sense of musical adventure, not to mention her apathy toward hit singles – that led her to explore new ground just as she was hitting her commercial stride. She started incorporating jazz elements into her songs in the early ’70s; by the middle of the decade, her singing and writing had taken on entirely new shades and tones that pretty much pegged her as a jazz artist.
She still played around with more popular genres – the wildly impressionistic pop of The Hissing of Summer Lawns in 1975, the electronic touches that weave in and out of Dog Eat Dog a decade later – but always with her singular spin on them. Even late in her career, when her ’90s albums took on darker and more political themes (and her smoky voice got deeper), she refused to settle into expectations, though she did revisit her vast catalog with a 70-piece orchestra on an album.
Mitchell was a singer’s songwriter at a time when that sort of music was pretty much relegated to folksingers (her songs were covered by others before she even released her first album). By the time she made her mark as a solo artist, she was a key and pioneering figure in the singer-songwriter movement of the ’70s, as you’ll see in following list of Joni Mitchell Albums Ranked Worst to Best.