June 2024


By Ann Powers
Ann Powers’ biography of Joni Mitchell is a travelogue of one of the greatest artistic journeys ever taken, and it's a pleasure to go along for the ride.
Share this Article:

What comes to mind when you think of Joni Mitchell? Is it her landmark 1971 album, Blue, or her foray into jazz? Her paintings? Her 2015 aneurysm? Ask a handful of people that question and you’re bound to get a different answer each time. Mitchell long ago transcended the status of a mere musician and became an icon, someone larger than life whose body of work is a cultural touchstone.

Leave it to critic Ann Powers to untangle the intricate web that Mitchell, 80, is still weaving today. In Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell, Powers traces the artist’s life from childhood to the present day with curiosity, context and compassion, using Mitchell’s often nomadic existence as a template to try to understand her life and legacy.

She does this through interviews with those who know Mitchell best, like Graham Nash and Brandi Carlile, as well as through painstaking research into archival interviews and the myriad writings inspired by the “Both Sides Now” artist. Powers notably includes her own experiences with Mitchell throughout the book, too, as well as the difficulties and surprises she experienced while writing it. That real-time sense of grappling with Mitchell’s music and persona both grounds the book and offers food for thought, like when Powers tries to understand how Mitchell’s childhood bout with polio affected—or, crucially, didn’t affect—her artistry. Powers favors nuance over easy answers, and the book is better for it.

As always, Powers, a longtime critic most recently known for her work at NPR Music, 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.


Trending Reviews

Get the Book



By Ann Powers
Dey Street
ISBN 9780062463722

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.