A Portrait of Joni Mitchell
By David Yaffe
Illustrated. 420 pp. Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $28.
A review written by By FRANCINE PROSE
NOV. 28, 2017
“Reckless Daughter” takes us from the Canadian town — Fort Macleod, Alberta — where Roberta Joan Anderson, born into a conventional household in 1943, loved nature and hated school. Childhood polio damaged her left hand, a handicap that would later inspire her to use the open guitar tunings that became her trademark. Her family moved to Saskatoon, and she attended art school in Calgary, where she performed in folk clubs, and where she became pregnant after a brief affair. She married a singer, Chuck Mitchell, who agreed that she should surrender her infant daughter for adoption, a decision that would haunt her. Still in her 20s, she outgrew Mitchell after their move to Manhattan, where she played in downtown clubs and had her first major hit when Judy Collins recorded her song “Both Sides, Now.” Professional and artistic triumphs followed, as did love affairs with, among others, Cohen, Graham Nash, James Taylor, Sam Shepard, Jackson Browne and Jaco Pastorius.