Reckless Daughter

Reckless Daughter

A Portrait of Joni Mitchell

Book - 2017
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"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.

Publisher: Toronto :, HarperCollins Publishers,, [2017]
Edition: First Canadian edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781443444811
Branch Call Number: ANF 782.42164 YAF
Characteristics: xvi, 420 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some colour) ; 24 cm


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ArapahoeJulieH Dec 13, 2018

David Yaffe has written a fascinating biography of the extraordinary Joni Mitchell. This is a tribute to Joni's genius as well as the genesis of her songwriting and her influence on many of the biggest names to come out of the ‘60's and ‘70's musical renaissance. Highly recommend this book for anyone who is a Joni fan and/or nostalgic about the era!

Sep 24, 2018

Having a good laugh over sheojuk's "review". I'm not quite sure but I think writing "some iconic songs" is not that easy and there are plenty of books about all the others who have written "iconic songs" too (and plenty about others who have not). This isn't the greatest book I've ever read, but it isn't the worst. Always fun to see someone insult the author AND the subject!

Apr 01, 2018

I'm not sure what book the other commenters were reading, but I found this to be the most disjointed, repetitive, confusing collection of anecdotal fragments and unfinished stories I have ever read. Joni is the ultimate snowflake- every encounter is a slight; her genius is never recognized; every relationship ends in acrimony. Situations are described up to the point of Joni declaring them "intolerable", at which point... they are dropped, and we move on to another song, another lover, another slight. Repeat. Repeat.

Joni Mitchell wrote some iconic songs. So did many other people. The book made me think many of the quotes had been taken from third-party sources, pasted on note cards, shuffled repeatedly, and published as a book. It is disappointing to read others finding this good journalism. I agree with the London Review of Books review that it is one endless gush, and nothing more. Portrait of a snowflake, by a flake.

Nov 24, 2017

It is more than rare to find a skilled biographer who is also a well-schooled musician, but in David Yaffe we have both. This is a serious work by a serious writer about a strong, complex, genius of an artist who made solid contributions to virtually every popular genre of music embraced in the second half of the 20th century. This bio is a dream for the serious musician, but is also eminently readable as the portrait of a fascinating and unique individual.

Nov 15, 2017

This is the Joni book I've been waiting for: a 3-D chronological telling from many interviews and from her colleagues, especially the jazz guys who worked with her. I am eager to read the second half and have it on hold. Got a great review in the Atlantic.

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