Joni Mitchell is a living legend. And even though she hasn’t released any new material in the past decade, it’s really no surprise that we still celebrate her contributions to culture to this day. A recent example of this is the film Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration, which features artists such as Chaka Khan, Norah Jones, and Glen Hansard all collaborating in her honor. But despite her fame, you’d be surprised that there are still some things you may not know about this iconic singer-songwriter. Read on to learn more!
She Shares Good Company
Joni Mitchell is only one of three Canadian songwriters to be given the Order of Canada. Along with Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen, she’s a recipient of Canada’s second-highest honor of merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of the country. Mitchell and Cohen have both also been inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, cementing their place as two of Canada’s cultural vanguards.
She’s Worked with Legendary Musicians
Well, it’s no surprise that good musicians tend to flock together. But even by those high standards, Mitchell has played with an impressive bunch throughout her long and illustrious career. Her first touring band consisted of members of Tom Scott’s LA Express, a well-respected fusion act at the time, which included influential guitarist Robben Ford. She’s also shared the stage and recorded with legendary jazz bassist, Jaco Pastorius.
And her list of stellar collaborators doesn’t end there, as David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, and Nash is credited as the producer for Mitchell’s 1968 debut album Song to a Seagull. Crosby had apparently caught one of Mitchell’s shows and was immediately enamored by her, deciding there and then to help her get onboard at Reprise Records.
She was Quite the Poker Player
This one might be surprising for a lot of people, but Mitchell was quite the poker player. She would frequent The Eagles’ singer Glenn Frey’s house for rounds of poker, which is why Frey’s home is sometimes referred to as the Kirkwood casino. The games would take place every Monday night after football, and were known to go on until the early hours of the morning. There are, after all, lots of different kinds of poker, and the singer-songwriter used to enjoy plenty around Frey’s house with fellow musicians. PartyPoker notes how the most popular types are Texas Hold’em and Omaha, which both pretty much follow the same rules except that in Hold’em, players get two cards and can use both, one, or none along with cards on the board. Omaha, on the other hand, has the player get four cards, from which they must take two cards from their hand and three from the board to create the best five-hand possible. Mitchell’s love for poker is even referenced in the song Taming the Tiger where she sings about “every disc being a poker chip.”
She Produced Most of Her Own Work
Mitchell tried to be as hands-on as possible with her albums, expressing discontent with the music industry and a desire to be in control of her life and work. She’s credited as the sole producer on most of her releases, including Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, and Court and Spark. These albums saw her branch out from the acoustic folk of her youth towards jazz and jazz fusion. And from there, her music progressed towards a more pop and rock sound, which by far is what’s now considered as Mitchell’s most popular era.
Her English Teacher Inspired Her to Write
Initially interested in painting, it would take Mitchell’s English teacher from her high school in Saskatoon to steer her towards music. These encounters would prove formative as he inspired her to “paint with words,” though she has described herself since as “painter derailed by circumstance.” Mitchell would go on to dedicate her debut album Song to a Seagull to him, writing, “This album is dedicated to Mr. Kratzman, who taught me to love words” in the album’s liner notes.