Reckless daughter A portrait of Joni Mitchell

David Yaffe, 1973-

Book - 2017

"Joni Mitchell may be the most influential female recording artist and composer of the late twentieth century. In Reckless Daughter, the music critic David Yaffe tells the remarkable, heart-wrenching story of how the blond girl with the guitar became a superstar of folk music in the 1960s, a key figure in the Laurel Canyon music scene of the 1970s, and the songwriter who spoke resonantly to, and for, audiences across the country. A Canadian prairie girl, a free-spirited artist, Mitchell nev...er wanted to be a pop star. She was nothing more than "a painter derailed by circumstances," she would explain. And yet, she went on to become a talented self-taught musician and a brilliant bandleader, releasing album after album, each distinctly experimental, challenging, and revealing. Her lyrics captivated listeners with their perceptive language and naked emotion, born out of Mitchell's life, loves, complaints, and prophecies. As an artist whose work deftly balances narrative and musical complexity, she has been admired by such legendary lyricists as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and beloved by such groundbreaking jazz musicians as Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock. Her hits--from "Big Yellow Taxi" to "Both Sides, Now" to "A Case of You"--endure as timeless favorites, and her influence on the generations of singer-songwriters who would follow her, from her devoted fan Prince to Björk, is undeniable. In this intimate biography, drawing on dozens of unprecedented in-person interviews with Mitchell, her childhood friends, and a cast of famous characters, Yaffe reveals the backstory behind the famous songs--from Mitchell's youth in Canada, her bout with polio at age nine, and her early marriage and the child she gave up for adoption, through the love affairs that inspired masterpieces, and up to the present--and shows us why Mitchell has so enthralled her listeners, her lovers, and her friends. Reckless Daughter is the story of an artist and an era that have left an indelible mark on American music."--Jacket.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Sarah Crichton Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2017.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xvi, 420 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 377-392) and index.
ISBN
9780374248130
0374248133
Main Author
David Yaffe, 1973- (author)
  • Preface: Nothing lasts for long
  • All things considered, I'd rather be dancing
  • Let the wind carry me: lessons in womanhood
  • Will you still love me tomorrow?
  • A common modern-day fairy tale
  • Don't give yourself away
  • The word man: Leonard Cohen
  • Experienced
  • Clouds
  • Our house
  • Ladies of the canyon
  • Sand
  • Blue
  • Between breakdown and breakthrough
  • The sunshine coast
  • For the roses
  • Star-crossed
  • Court and spark: something strange happened
  • Miles of aisles
  • The queen of queens
  • Hejira and the art of losing
  • Crazy wisdom
  • Mirrored ball
  • Don Juan's reckless daughter
  • Mingus
  • Nervy broad
  • Wild things run fast
  • Dog eat dog
  • Emergency rooms
  • Save the bombs for later
  • Turbulence
  • See you at the movies
  • Curtain call
  • Just like this train.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In this dazzling biography, Yaffe so aptly calls Joni Mitchell (born Roberta Joan Anderson) "our eternal singer-songwriter of sorrows." Ironically, Mitchell considered herself a painter first, according to Yaffe. He perfectly captures not only the singer's urban-inflected and American-influenced lyrics but also music that is deeply rooted in Canadian prairie soil (she was born in Alberta and raised in Saskatchewan). Like fellow Canadian Neil Young, Mitchell was struck by polio at a young age. The disease scarred her emotionally, but it also made her resilient and rebellious. She moved to Toronto as an unwed mother and gave up the baby for adoption. Her marriage to the American folksinger Chuck Mitchell, while pursuing her career on the folk music/coffeehouse circuit, was a disaster, but she was writing songs while in her twenties, including the timeless "Both Sides, Now." Yaffe offers critical observations on of all her albums (including Blue, Ladies of the Canyon, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Court and Spark, Hejira, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, and Mingus); recalls her halcyon and artistically fruitful days in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Laurel Canyon; and discusses her relationships with the late Leonard Cohen, David Crosby, Graham Nash, James Taylor, and Jackson Browne, among others. A shimmering portrait of one artist's life, illusions and all. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Joni Mitchell (née Roberta Joan Anderson in 1943 Alberta) is the subject of two books this fall. An anthology of articles about the singer/songwriter, edited by Barney Hoskyns, is also pubbing this month. But Yaffe (Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown), a longtime fan who met with Mitchell often between 2007 and 2015, takes the traditional biography route and starts at the beginning, with her less-than-satisfying childhood, her bout with polio, and her self-taught musicianship. Mitchell eventually left home, singing in coffeehouses in Toronto, and on her way to her own legendary status crossed paths with every rising star in the folk and rock firmament: Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, David Crosby, Neil Young, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Jimi Hendrix among them. Her songwriting magic was as much a lure to these fellow troubadours as her ethereal beauty and original sound. Yaffe follows the music and the stories behind them, covering the marriages and love affairs, the record company woes, and the child she gave up for adoption. Fans won't see her star diminished as much as her brilliance and frailties revealed. VERDICT All music collections need this one. [Illustrations and index not seen.] [See Prepub Alert, 4/24/17.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Drawing on in-depth interviews with Mitchell, her friends, and her musical associates, Yaffe (Fascinating Rhythm) paints a colorful and riveting portrait of a songwriter who has continually broken boundaries and explored new musical territories. In lively, bright prose, Yaffe traces Roberta Joan Anderson from her birth in Alberta, Canada, in 1943, through her early bout of polio, her marriage to Chuck Mitchell in 1964 (when she changed her name to Joni Mitchell), and the birth of her daughter in 1965. Yaffe describes Mitchell's steely resolve to make her own art, her emergence as a voice of her generation, her creative struggles in the 1980s and 1990s, and her recent recovery from a brain aneurysm. He brilliantly guides readers through Mitchell's evolution as a musician with vivid descriptions of the making of each of her albums from Song to a Seagull ("If drums and an electric guitar had been added to the mix, Joni would have produced some acid rock herself") through Shine in 2007. Yaffe introduces readers to the musicians with whom Mitchell worked, including Leonard Cohen, Graham Nash, Judy Collins, and Charles Mingus. The combination of fine writing and extensive access make this the definitive biography of a gifted songwriter and musician. (Oct.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An intimate portrait of the music-culture icon shares insight into her use of experimental and revelatory lyrics while revealing the inspirations behind her most famous songs, from her youth on the Canadian prairie and struggles with childhood polio to her early marriage and the child she gave up for adoption. By the author of Fascinating Rhythm.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A portrait of the music-culture icon shares insight into her use of experimental lyrics while revealing the inspirations behind her most famous songs, from her youth on the Canadian prairie to her early marriage and the child she gave up for adoption.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"She was like a storm." —Leonard CohenJoni Mitchell may be the most influential female recording artist and composer of the late twentieth century. In Reckless Daughter, the music critic David Yaffe tells the remarkable, heart-wrenching story of how the blond girl with the guitar became a superstar of folk music in the 1960s, a key figure in the Laurel Canyon music scene of the 1970s, and the songwriter who spoke resonantly to, and for, audiences across the country. A Canadian prairie girl, a free-spirited artist, Mitchell never wanted to be a pop star. She was nothing more than “a painter derailed by circumstances,” she would explain. And yet, she went on to become a talented self-taught musician and a brilliant bandleader, releasing album after album, each distinctly experimental, challenging, and revealing. Her lyrics captivated listeners with their perceptive language and naked emotion, born out of Mitchell’s life, loves, complaints, and prophecies. As an artist whose work deftly balances narrative and musical complexity, she has been admired by such legendary lyricists as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and beloved by such groundbreaking jazz musicians as Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock. Her hits—from “Big Yellow Taxi” to “Both Sides, Now” to “A Case of You”—endure as timeless favorites, and her influence on the generations of singer-songwriters who would follow her, from her devoted fan Prince to Björk, is undeniable.In this intimate biography, drawing on dozens of unprecedented in-person interviews with Mitchell, her childhood friends, and a cast of famous characters, Yaffe reveals the backstory behind the famous songs—from Mitchell’s youth in Canada, her bout with polio at age nine, and her early marriage and the child she gave up for adoption, through the love affairs that inspired masterpieces, and up to the present—and shows us why Mitchell has so enthralled her listeners, her lovers, and her friends. Reckless Daughter is the story of an artist and an era that have left an indelible mark on American music.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

An intimate new biography of Joni Mitchell, one of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century