Joni Mitchell’s Youthful Artistry

Margaret Talbot at The New Yorker:

In 1964, a twenty-year-old Canadian singer named Joan Anderson began composing her own folk songs. They were good folk songs, sturdily constructed and memorable, but the genre corseted her. She would need to roam the mountains and plains of rock and jazz in order to claim her gift. Folk was not enough—but it was what was available to her as a young woman from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in the early nineteen-sixties, a woman in possession of an ethereal soprano and a four-string baritone ukulele, the instrument she could afford to buy on her own after her mother nixed a guitar. At nineteen, she left home for art school in Alberta—painting was her first creative outlet—and then began touring, playing in coffeehouses or church basements in Toronto and Calgary and Detroit. For her mother Myrtle’s birthday in 1965, Joan made her a tape with three of the songs she had written, “Urge for Going,” “Born to Take the Highway,” and “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow.” In the folk tradition, they celebrate footloose rambling.

more here.