"She was like a storm." ―Leonard Cohen
"The definitive biography of a gifted songwriter and musician." ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
With an inimitable sound and unmistakable voice, Joni Mitchell is one of the most iconic performers and storytellers of any generation. Reckless Daughter tells the remarkable, heart-wrenching story of how the blonde girl from Saskatchewan 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 around the world.
In this intimate biography, composed of dozens of unprecedented in-person interviews with Mitchell, her childhood friends, and a cast of famous characters that includes Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and David Crosby, David Yaffe reveals the backstory behind the famous songs―from Mitchell’s youth in Canada, her pre-vaccine bout with polio at age nine, her early marriage, and the child she gave up for adoption, through the quintessential 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. Drawing on musical expertise and a reverence for and deep understanding of Mitchell’s work, Yaffe offers insightful analyses of her famous lyrics, exploring their imagery, their style, and their reflection of the woman herself.
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 band leader, releasing album after album, each distinctly experimental, challenging, and revealing. Her lyrics captivated listeners with their poignant, 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 was admired by such legendary lyricists as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and was a beloved collaborator of jazz musicians Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock, among others. Her hits—from “Big Yellow Taxi” to “Both Sides, Now” to “A Case of You”—endure as timeless favorites. Mitchell’s influence on the generations of singer-songwriters who would follow her is undeniable.
Reckless Daughter is the story of Joni Mitchell, and of the fertile, exciting musical time of which she was an integral part. It is the story of an artist and an era that have left an indelible mark on our music and our culture.