The iconic '60s singer had a tumultuous road to fame, but now we're learning what was going on behind the scenes of Joni Mitchell's celebrated career. Joni was one of the first artists to soar in various genres — that is, when she wasn’t combining them. Be it folk, pop, rock, or jazz, Joni’s influence draws from and informs just about every style under the sun. Of course, her upbringing was just as eclectic.
Just another military brat
For some songwriters, the music industry can be divided into two eras: BJ ("before Joni") and AF ("after Joni"). It's true that songwriters were forced to up their game the moment Joni hit the ground running with her first album Song to a Seagull. But before she was dazzling audiences with her unique singing voice and lyrics, she led a rather unusual childhood in Canada.
Never settling down
Joni’s mother was Scottish and Irish, and her dad was both white and indigenous Norwegian. In any case, Joni’s family was mostly just Canadian, and her dad proved his dedication to Canada as a flight lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Air Force. William’s job took the family to several bases in western Canada, which meant Joni never stayed in any one place for too long.
Finally leaving roots
After 1945, Joni — who was born Roberta Joan Anderson — moved with her family to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which is where the family finally settled down. Joni got her first taste of an "ordinary" family life, but she had a hard time getting through classes at school. She was talented and smart, but it didn’t translate to the required courses. There was one thing she was great at, though — painting.
"A painter derailed by circumstance"
You can see Joni's lifelong love for painting by taking an extra look at some of her album covers, which the star painted herself. She called herself a "painter derailed by circumstance," the "circumstance" being her undeniable talent for singing and songwriting. The first time she put pen to paper, it was thanks to a particularly supportive teacher, Arthur Kratzmann.