Roberta Joan "Joni" Mitchell is a Canadian-American singer and songwriter. Drawing from folk, pop, rock, classical and jazz, Mitchell's songs often reflect on social and philosophical ideals as well as her feelings about romance, womanhood, disillusionment and joy. She has received many accolades, including ten Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Rolling Stone called her "one of the greatest songwriters ever", and AllMusic has stated, "When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century".
Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and throughout western Canada, before moving on to the nightclubs of Toronto, Ontario. She moved to the United States and began touring in 1965. Some of her original songs ("Urge for Going", "Chelsea Morning", "Both Sides, Now", "The Circle Game") were recorded by other folk singers, allowing her to sign with Reprise Records and record her debut album, Song to a Seagull, in 1968. Settling in Southern California, Mitchell helped define an era and a generation with popular songs like "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock". Her 1971 album Blue is often cited as one of the best albums of all time; it was rated the 30th best album ever made in Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", rising to number 3 in the 2020 edition. In 2000, The New York Times chose Blue as one of the 25 albums that represented "turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music". NPR ranked Blue number 1 on a 2017 list of Greatest Albums Made by Women.
Mitchell switched labels and began exploring more jazz-influenced melodic ideas, by way of lush pop textures, on 1974's Court and Spark, which featured the radio hits "Help Me" and "Free Man in Paris" and became her best-selling album. Mitchell's vocal range began to shift from mezzo-soprano to more of a wide-ranging contralto around 1975. Her distinctive piano and open-tuned guitar compositions also grew more harmonically and rhythmically complex as she melded jazz with rock and roll, R&B, classical music and non-Western beats. In the late 1970s, she began working with noted jazz musicians including Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Pat Metheny as well as Charles Mingus, who asked her to collaborate on his final recordings. She later turned to pop and electronic music and engaged in political protest. She was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards in 2002 and became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2021.
Mitchell produced or co-produced most of her albums. A critic of the music industry, she quit touring and released her 17th and last album of original songs in 2007. Mitchell has designed most of her own album covers, describing herself as a "painter derailed by circumstance".