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Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,247 ratings  ·  253 reviews
"She was like a storm." —Leonard Cohen

Joni Mitchell may be the most influential female recording artist and composer of the late twentieth century. In Reckless Daughter, the music critic David Yaffe tells the remarkable, heart-wrenching story of how the blond girl with the guitar became a superstar of folk music in the 1960s, a key figure in the Laurel Canyon music scene o
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Sarah Crichton Books
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Earl Douglas I think Joni Mitchell was the greatest songwriter of the late 20th century. Better than Dylan, better than Cohen, better than anybody. I had the…moreI think Joni Mitchell was the greatest songwriter of the late 20th century. Better than Dylan, better than Cohen, better than anybody. I had the pleasure to see her in 1976 or so, Miles of Aisles or the Shadows and light Tour. Can't quite remember which. She was at the height of her fame and beauty, and it simply was the greatest Concert I ever saw, hands down. She was spectacular. When she sat down on the baby grand to play "Real Good for free" alone, it was pure genius. Breathtaking. And you could hear in pin drop, in a crowd of 15,000.(less)

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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,247 ratings  ·  253 reviews

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Paul Bryant
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Biographies are quite dangerous books, they can turn on you just like that, take a whole lump out of you before you can say wait, I didn’t want to know that. Don’t tell me. Please. No.

I like biographies of people I don’t care too much about, like the Marquis de Sade, or Kathy Acker or H P Lovecraft or Marlon Brando. I get nervous when they’re about people who I love or think I love like Nina Simone or John Fahey or Joni Mitchell. But I want the information; I’m so greedy.

Joni was everything th
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joni Mitchell is a very important artist to me, as she is for many people. I've never really been able, however, to articulate why she means so much to me. I think that's a universal experience though. Her music speaks to people in ways they can't explain. And in this new biography, what's so compelling about not only Joni's story but Yaffe's telling of it is that he's able to, every once in a while, put into words how Mitchell's music makes you feel.

This is a special book because you can tell t
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book really celebrates the unique talent of Joni Mitchell, someone who conjures the true hippie spirit of the 60’s & 70’s, a singer that is quintessentially and synonymously the voice of the folk hippie scene.

A simple prairie girl from Canada emerges when she picks up the guitar and discovers her raw untapped talent. She’s the real deal. A true talent with soul in her heart and voice. She’s strong but also fragile. She’s not always portrayed perfectly. There are vulnerabilities which yo
Cathrine ☯️
4 🎼🎼🎼🎼
“Joni Mitchell is more than a 1970s icon or pop star. She is our eternal singer-songwriter of sorrows, traveling through our highs and lows . . . a master of the art song tradition.”

“Men fell in love with her and women felt like she was singing their secrets out loud.”

For this fan her songs were as constant as the northern star. I yearned to put on some silver and be

a lady of the canyon
a woman whose man sung about Our House
out dancing and wreck my stockings in a jukebox dive
loved so naught
David Schaafsma
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was just walking near Lake Michigan and saw a young woman wearing a Woodstock T-Shirt, I had just listened to this biography's focus on that period, and I stopped to tell her. "Oh!" she said, "Who's Joni Mitchell?" I smiled, seeing my mistake that the t shirt might have actually meant something to her. "Oh," I said "She's just a genius I've always been in love with."

Click on this as you read, her "Blue":

I love Joni Mitchell, always have. Of course, like
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This a remarkable biography of the iconic Joni Mitchell. Reckless Daughter provides not only the background of the famous singer/songwriter but also delves into her brilliant musicality. A must read for rabid fans.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Since it looks like she won't be writing the autobiography I've been waiting for, this will probably be the closest we'll get. Maybe a tad too deferential, but with so many details I've never read before about her fascinating life and the genesis of the songs that I can hardly complain. If you're going to read a Joni book, read this one.

Then be sure to play the records one by one. Over and over and over and over.
Valerity (Val)
This was a very in depth and super researched book about Roberta Joan "Joni" Mitchell, documenting her life going back to the beginnings on the windswept plains of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Considered by ROLLING STONE magazine to be one of the best singer-songwriters of our time, she's also a painter who has put some of her works on her album covers. There were romances with many musicians, Leonard Cohen, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and James Taylor to name a few during the earlier years. ...more
Sid Nuncius
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what to expect from Reckless Daughter. There are an awful lot of terrible showbiz biographies around, so as someone who has loved Joni Mitchell's music for nigh on half a century now I approached this with some trepidation – but it turns out to be very good. Yaffe's style is readable and pretty straightforward and although it's a little over-written in places for my taste I never found that intruding too badly and I found the whole thing an enjoyable and fascinating read.

David Yaff
Sarah Tittle
Nov 29, 2017 rated it liked it
As someone who scrawled Joni's (first-name basis, of course) lyrics across my college notebooks and in my journals, I consider myself a pretty ardent fan. My husband can't stand the shrieking voice or the mopey lyrics but even he, as I read this book and played certain songs alongside it, had to concede that she was a force to be reckoned with. So with this new bio and its beautiful cover photo, I set out to fall in love with her again, or at least with her story. But I didn't. David Yaffe's por ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent job of research. Yaffe seems to have spoken with all the major figures from each musical period in Joni's career. He also certainly knows his music history and music theory, being able to discuss the harmonic and rhythmic elements in Joni's always-expanding palette of song types.

The trajectory of Joni Mitchell's career went from sensitive and articulate folk songwriter through a more rock-accompanied period that led her into jazz. Much the way Steely Dan accrued accomplished jazz mu
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
The short jacket note on the author shows David Jaffe to be an academic with an award for fiction. From the book, I’d have guessed he was a music critic. Jaffe shows wide knowledge of music in a 30-40 year period inclusive of pop, folk and jazz. Unfortunately, the prose needs an editor. The text can be a slog at times.

An example of the choppy writing is the p. 65 intro of David Geffen with the anecdote about his working in the William Morris mail room and intercepting the letter that could have
Debbie Boucher
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I am a fan of Joni Mitchell, and while I appreciated David Yaffee's focus on her music, this biography was a slog. I only recommend it to those who truly admire Mitchell's music and are interested in that aspect of her life. Yes, there are details regarding her many lovers and her reunion with the daughter she gave up for adoption, but as a reader, I was left with the impression of Mitchell as woman who is difficult, full of herself, and always has been. It made me sad. I enjoy reading biographi ...more
Peter Tillman
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
I've been a Joni Mitchell fan since, well, forever. So is the author, and he's done a nice job talking to his subject, her various lovers and friends, and other significant people in her life. He writes well, and I'm learning tons of cool, interesting stuff about one of my favorite musicians.

I paired the book with re-listening to all of her albums, more or less in order as Yaffe describes them. Which adds a lot to both the book and the music, so I recommend this approach to you, too.

I wish he'd
Ron S
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ms. Mitchell gets the book she deserves; detailed, balanced, and while full of respect and admiration inclusive of actions, events and statements that do not paint the lady of the canyon in a flattering light. The author's deep understanding of music allows a depth not normally found in biographies of this sort. Expect feeling a need to work your way carefully through Mitchell's catalogue while reading, and once you've finished this.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
A recurring motif in Reckless Daughter is the attempt to find a suitable comparison for Joni Mitchell. The author, the subejct, and contemporaries of hers take their best shot; Miles Davis, Rembrandt, Beethoven, Schubert, Van Gogh, and Picasso are all mentioned. Joni, who always considered herself as much a painter as a musician, would appreciate the cross-medium comparisons, and as someone who grew up loving Rachmaninoff and Debussy and took pride in her compositions, she wouldn’t mind being me ...more
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Joni Mitchell's first album was released in March, 1968. I was an off and on student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, dropping out and then enrolling again. I was also singing in various spots around campus, covering songs recorded by Judy Collins, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan, already playing Judy Collins' version of "Both Sides Now." So of course, I bought the album the minute it came out and listened to it daily. Eventually a couple friends of mine helped me figure out her open tunings ...more
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Granted, Joni Mitchell is an innovator who has lived the life of an artist, creating some enduring music, and this book is well written, but after a while Joni wears you down. She lacks warmth or generosity of spirit, unlike Springsteen or Robbie Robertson in their recent books, which made it difficult to finish.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, music
Although my oldest sister was a big fan of Joni Mitchell and played her records all the time while we were growing up, it wasn’t until Mitchell’s Wild Things Run Fast LP of 1982 that I became a genuine fan and immediately began amassing her old stuff. During the rest of the eighties and throughout the nineties Mitchell would release a new record every few years and I would always be all over it, right away. Though I genuinely enjoyed all of those records, even 1985’s oft-maligned Dog Eat Dog, no ...more
Reckless Daughter is a biography of legendary songstress Joni Mitchell that seamlessly combines biographical details with analysis of her lyrics and her musicianship. For those of us who grew up with her music, but never bothered to learn the biography, it was quite interesting to learn that she grew up in Canada, had polio as a child before widespread application of the Salk vaccine, had a child out of wedlock at a young age who she gave up for adoption, and other details.

Many of these things
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: didnt-finish
I think music journalism is just not my thing. I love Joni Mitchell’s music and I did enjoy the first half of this book. The writing was engaging and interesting. Each chapter told the story of one of her albums, essentially, in chronological order from her first album on. It was interesting to hear about the (supposed or assumed) stories that inspired the individual songs, what was going on in Joni’s life at the time that each album was written, and the professional/business aspects of her care ...more
Dale Boyer
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For fans of Joni Mitchell (and I'm a huge one), this is probably about as good as it's going to get. I was hesitant to read it, because someone remarked that it changed the way they thought about her. It does, but what it presents is a much more complex portrait than the naïve folk singer image that tends to spring to mind when thinking of her. I don't mind seeing her as more complex. And the book is fascinating in all the detail it gives about her music and her career. I totally devoured this b ...more
"Joni could roar, but many people had no idea how easily she could be wounded, how she would see and feel daggers that other people didn’t even know they had thrown."

Joni Mitchell and I share a birthday and she is very special to me. This was such an honest yet celebratory novel. I loved how much you could just tell Yaffe loves and admires Mitchell. Everything he wrote was filtered through that and what came out was such a feeling of warmth (versus coming off as a little preach-y which i feel li
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was with one of my sons at a Mongolian BBQ and over the din of conversations and clacking dishes I was surprised to hear an unmistakable Joni Mitchell song being played in the background. Joni’s music was never meant to be background music. Her music and lyrics make demands on her listeners, requiring focus and attention. This biography captures both the complexity and poetry of Joni Mitchell’s music and life. It’s reverent but still honest. It paints a portrait of the artist illuminating both ...more
Colleen Parker
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Though I really liked this biography, I must say that only the hard core Joni fans are likely to feel the same way. Jaffe covers her life album by album, sometimes with a few too many lyric quotes, but I was very interested in the stories behind the songs that meant the most to me. Her life has been even most tumultuous than I realized, making her accomplishments all the more remarkable. A good read for the dedicated.
Lindsay Hunter
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredibly precise and detailed yet still holds Joni at a distance. Kind of like Joni herself I imagine. Still, I miss her now that it’s over. I guess you don’t know what you got till it’s gone HAHAHAHAHA but I did enjoy this book immensely and am inspired by her devotion, always, to herself.
Linda Lipko
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it

You really must be a Joni Mitchell fan if you start, and finish, this book. Well written, but dull in places because of the sheer volume of information.

A Poet, able to play and sing her own songs, Joni has long been my favorite singer of the folk era. She transcended this era by dabbling in jazz and cutting a cd with Mingus. Some fans liked her earthy poems rather that her jazz compilations.

Overall, she is definitely a woman to be admired.
Interesting look at Joni Mitchell, her songwriting and singing, as well as the times (70s on for her career) and the famous singers she knew. More an appreciation than a straightforward, balanced biography, this still provides details of her life and career, much drawn from interviews with Mitchell and others. Reading while listening to some of her greatest hits isn't a bad suggestion.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley-books
I have been in love with Joni Mitchell’s music since high school but have not read anything about her life. She grew up in rural Canada and then spend much of her twenties ensconced in perhaps the coolest music scene ever. You would think that would make for riveting reading but somehow this book fell flat for me. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy parts of it but I think, for me, the analyzing of song lyrics just wasn’t all that interesting so it slowed down the reading experience. The book did enc ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A balanced view of Mitchell’s person. And a through but not wonky look at all her albums. Has some pictures and end notes
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joni badass 1 8 Dec 05, 2017 05:19PM  
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David Yaffe is an assistant professor of English at Syracuse University. His writings have appeared in many publications, including The Nation, Slate, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

During the 2008-2009 academic year, he was the Gould Faculty Fellow in the Humanities at Claremont McKenna College. He subsequently returned to Syracuse.
“Albert Camus, from Leonard Cohen’s reading list, makes an appearance here, from Notebooks, 1935–1951: “What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country … we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being.” (emphasis added)” 0 likes
“to live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” Nietzsche” 0 likes
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