On the Path of Joni Mitchell

by Ann Powers

On Sale: 06/11/2024


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On the Path of Joni Mitchell

by Ann Powers

On Sale: 06/11/2024


About the Book

Celebrated NPR music critic Ann Powers explores the life and career of Joni Mitchell in a lyrical style as fascinating and ethereal as the songs of the artist herself.

.“What you are about to read is not a standard account of the life and work of Joni Mitchell. Instead, it's a tale of long journeying through a life that changed popular music: of a homesick wanderer forging ahead on routes of her own invention, and of me on her trail, heading toward the ringing of her voice."

From the introduction

For decades, Joni Mitchell's life and music have enraptured listeners. One of the most celebrated artists of her generation, Mitchell has inspired countless musicians—from peers like James Taylor, to inheritors like Prince and Brandi Carlile—and authors, who have dissected her music and her life in their writing. At the same time, Mitchell has always been a force beckoning us still closer, as—with the other arm—she pushes us away. Given this, music critic Ann Powers wondered if there was another way to draw insights from the life of this singular musician who never stops moving, never stops experimenting.

In Traveling, Powers seeks to understand Mitchell through her myriad journeys. Through extensive interviews with Mitchell's peers and deep archival research, she takes readers to rural Canada, mapping the singer's childhood battle with polio. She charts the course of Mitchell's musical evolution, ranging from early folk to jazz fusion to experimentation with pop synthetics. She follows the winding road of Mitchell's collaborations with other greats, and the loves that emerged along the way, all the way through to the remarkable return of Mitchell to music-making after the 2015 aneurysm that nearly took her life.

Along this journey, Powers' wide-ranging musings on the artist's life and career reconsider the biographer's role and the way it twines against the reality of a fan. In doing so, Traveling illustrates the shifting nature of biography, and the ultimate contradiction of celebrity: that an icon cannot truly, completely be known to a fan.

Kaleidoscopic in scope, and intimate in its detail, Traveling is a fresh and fascinating addition to the Joni Mitchell canon, written by a biographer in full command of her gifts who asks as much of herself as of her subject.

Critical Praise

“Powers traces Mitchell's origins, influences, significance, and social and cultural contexts with crisp, insightful detail, delving into the pathways that forged Mitchell's legacy and legend … There's magic in Powers's fluid and lyrical prose” — Shelf Awareness

“Remarkably insightful … Powers proves an adroit codebreaker for the uniquely complex cross-pollination of romantic ennui, class consciousness, spiritual striving and occasional narcissism that characterizes the full sweep of the Joni Mitchell enterprise.” — Washington Post

“Powers is the perfect writer for her subject, and she shows us a far more interesting way to regard Mitchell than the fan’s smothering hug. Hers is a loose embrace with the respect for craft that comes from truly understanding what it takes to write a song like ‘Woodstock’ or ‘A Case of You’ or ‘Come in From the Cold,’ as well as a healthy dose of skepticism about the myth of Joni.” — Los Angeles Times

“Luminous, knotty and timely…Ms. Powers hardly misses a trick. Every time I felt I might be one step ahead of her, the other shoe happily dropped on the next page.” — Wall Street Journal

“As always, Powers…writes with precision and a healthy dose of the poetic, a combination that makes for an immersive and enlightening read. This is no dry biography. Traveling is hardly the first book about Mitchell and won’t be the last, but it fills a necessary gap in the library of tomes dedicated to her work. Powers has crafted a travelogue of one of the greatest artistic journeys ever taken, and it’s a pleasure to go along for the ride.” — BookPage (starred review)

“Powers has created a glorious and poetic journey through Mitchell’s life and career...The result is a brilliant and personal distillation of a singular artist.” — Booklist (starred review)

“A vibrant critical assessment of the eclectic and enigmatic folk/jazz/pop icon...Those simply looking for loving commentaries on Mitchell classics like Blue will find them, but Powers offers more than mere hagiography, positioning Mitchell as ‘an embodiment of freedom and singularity, of sorrow and of play.’ A top-notch music critic set loose on a worthy subject.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Powers turns the act of documenting someone’s life into an artistic endeavor, which makes this book unlike most other titles in the genre…Experiencing this book is more akin to wandering down a scenic path than traveling a timeline of someone’s life, and there is no other musician better suited for this style of biography than the ever-changing Mitchell.” — Library Journal (starred review)

“A dazzling portrait of a legendary musician.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Ann Powers does [Mitchell's] complex legacy justice, and then some, in this essential book.” — ZYZZYVA

“Throughout her smart, exquisitely crafted book, Powers takes what her sources told her and filters it discriminately through her deep knowledge of Mitchell’s life and work, American musical culture, and popular culture more broadly. She never lets an inflated claim float unpunctured and declines to tell an over-told tale one more time…Readers of Traveling should expect careful unraveling of the layers of meaning and effect in Joni Mitchell’s music, and they’ll get it.” — The Nation

“Powers offers a deep dive into the work and life of Mitchell. No straightforward biography, Powers talks to everyone she can, charts the life journey of this singular artist and her impact on the world. And it’s all done in a freedom, jazzy style Mitchell herself would approve.” — Parade

“A smart critical romp.” — Boston Globe

Traveling is a monumental biography--revelatory and compassionate.” — Elizabeth DeNoma, Executive Editor, DeNoma Literary Services

"Powers, one of the very best music critics we’ve got, masterfully guides readers through Mitchell’s life and work at a fascinating slant, her approach both sweeping and intimate as she occupies the dual roles of biographer and fan." — Sophia Stewart, The Millions

“A daring, intimate book about a daring, intimate artist, Traveling is a thrilling provocation from Ann Powers, one of the greatest cultural critics of our time. Merging biography, memoir and analysis, Powers paints a gorgeous map of the artist’s influence over a lifetime, puncturing myths and finding electric new connections, always in search of the deeper meaning.”  — Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker

“NPR’s music critic offers an exploration of how Joni Mitchell came to her sense of self and music, while at the same time reflecting on Powers’s own engagement with Mitchell’s journey. Based on interviews and archival research, she offers a peripatetic biography that is as questioning of the genre as it is of its subject.” — Library Journal

“An exhilarating ride down the lonely roads where Joni Mitchell has led the way. Ann Powers, the most brilliant of music critics, illuminates so many different sides of the artist—the ambitious young folkie, the rock star, the timeless fan obsession—with poetic ingenuity. For anyone who’s ever been transfixed by a Mitchell song, Traveling is full of fresh revelations and insights.” — Rob Sheffield, author of Dreaming the Beatles

“The Joni Mitchell book we've all been waiting for. Ann Powers gives us a brilliant guided tour through the history, myth, and music of an icon. Traveling provides a seemingly unending supply of treats: canny critical assessments of Joni's beloved catalogue; fascinating nuggets of history; immersive descriptions of the American scene; feminist revisions of received Joni wisdom. And did I mention it's funny? Powers writes with great wit, imagination, and vulnerability, unpacking her own relationship to Mitchell, and to rock music itself. I absolutely loved this book.” — Claire Dederer, Bestselling author of Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma

“Thick with the funk of making folk, Traveling climbs from deep sigh to primal scream and then takes a glorious, long way home. This is Ann Powers' intimate, fortifying, and sometimes soul-crushing story of how life becomes songs, how songs chart lives, and how Joni Mitchell became Joni Mitchell.” — Danyel Smith, author of Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop

“In this rich, meticulous, feminist tome, Ann Power plunges us deep into the Joni-verse. Every page is a revelation. THIS is the book Joni fans have been waiting for.”
  — Jessica Hopper, documentarian and author of The First Collection of Criticism By a Living Female Rock Critic 


Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062463722
  • ISBN 10: 0062463721
  • Imprint: Dey Street Books
  • On Sale: 06/11/2024
  • Pages: 448
  • List Price:43.50 CAD
  • BISAC1 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Composers & Musicians
  • BISAC2 : MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Folk & Traditional
  • BISAC5 : HISTORY / United States / 20th Century

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