From matters of biography, creative development, and artistic orientation we now turn to the lifework and Joni Mitchell’s oeuvre. Here we witness the convergence of personal history, creative method, and professional philosophy within the art. To be sure, Joni Mitchell is a natural product of her times. From nature she received her talent—a creative impulse that manifests in multiple forms. Whether she is painting, writing, photographing, sewing, or cooking, Mitchell approaches that creative act as an “artist” with a firm commitment to the aesthetic objectives she associates with that work. She is a slave to her aesthetic vision. From her environment she absorbed a perspective on life—an idealistic, nurturing outlook that projects an unashamed sincerity. As much as any artist from any time, joni Mitchell was a True Believer in a social movement that eventually abused her for her dedication. Initially, Mitchell’s idealism fueled her pen, but as time passed and those dreams disintegrated one by one, that pen chronicled their passing just as fiercely as her early work heralded their potential. As we are about to discover, our polio survivor will don her Roy Rogers outfit and combat the music industry, journalists, audiences, colleagues, and total strangers with the rebellious determination of her youthful bouts with piano teachers and chauvinistic playmates. There are times when the difference between Joni Mitchell’s art and Joni Mitchell vanishes. The axiom “Trust the art, not the artist” disappears, for she is her art. Such raw, unfiltered honesty proved to be as costly as it was innovative.
Professionally, Mitchell’s worldview forced her into the compromising realm of creative submission. As she surrendered to her perceived audience’s needs by offering her heartfelt interpretations of the events before her, she revised the methods of songwriting—especially as the practice applied to