Travelling On The Path Of Joni Mitchell

Travelling On The Path Of Joni Mitchell

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Gabi's Review

Gen Xers like me have long suspected that music would homogenize into a bland facsimile of innovation and creativity under the corporate machine directing today’s music industry. Reading Travelling on the Path of Joni Mitchell confirms that suspicion by way of contrasting modern music with the emerging dynamic industry in which Joni Mitchell played an iconic role. Ann Powers’ new biography delivers a nuanced history detailing that dynamism, through 60s folk, early blues, country, rock and jazz fusion withing the framework of Mitchell’s oeuvre.

Ann Powers’ previous work as a highly credentialed, eminent music critic and author informs this highly readable and illuminating book. It’s not a conventional biography focused on its subject’s personal experiences; rather, it’s a brilliant exploration of the literary, cultural and musical movements that influenced and framed Mitchell’s 60 years’ journey as an artist. To read this biography is to travel through one of the most exciting periods of social change and transformation: from the sexual liberation of the ‘swinging sixties’, the emergence of the feminist movement, civil and gay rights movements and technological advancements, through to the darker days of stagnant wages, energy crises, geopolitical uncertainty, war and political scandal.

But Powers’ book is not a simple exercise in nostalgia, designed to appeal to baby boomers. While she champions Mitchell’s resistance to the demands of a male-dominated industry and applauds her creative output, she also remains cognisant of the musician’s single-minded, indeed often ruthless, ambition in her quest for formal innovation. 

What also makes the book exceptional is Powers’ expert analyses of Mitchell’s changing craft throughout several turbulent decades. I highly recommend her book for both younger and older readers for its nuanced understanding of Mitchell’s changing social and historical contexts, as well as for its portrait of an exceptionally gifted musician: Joni Mitchell, one of music’s most deservedly celebrated practitioners.

Publisher’s Review 

An Independent Best Non-Fiction Book for 2024. 

Celebrated music critic Ann Powers explores the life and career of the legendary Joni Mitchell.

What you are about to read is not a standard account of the life and work of Joni Mitchell. Instead, it’s a tale of long journeying through a life that changed popular music: of a homesick wanderer forging ahead on routes of her invention, and of me on her trail, heading toward the ringing of her voice.

One of the most celebrated artists of her generation, Joni Mitchell has inspired countless musicians and writers, while never stopping still herself.

In Travelling, celebrated music critic Ann Powers seeks to understand the paradox of Mitchell – at once both elusive and inviting – through her myriad journeys. Drawing on extensive inter­views with Mitchell’s peers and deep archival research, Powers takes readers to rural Canada, charts the course of Mitchell’s musical evolution, follows the winding road of Mitchell’s collaborations with other greats and explores the loves that fed her songwriting.

Kaleidoscopic in scope and intimate in detail, Travelling is a fresh and fascinating addition to the Joni Mitchell corpus – and one that questions whether an artist can ever truly be known to their fans.