Folk artist and pioneer Joni Mitchell will receive the Les Paul Innovation Award at the 35th Annual NAMM Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards (NAMM TEC Awards), on Saturday, Jan. 18 in Anaheim, Calif., during The NAMM Show. The award is given on behalf of the Les Paul Foundation to honor individuals that have set the highest standards of excellence in creative application of artistry in the spirit of the famed audio pioneer, inventor and musician, Les Paul.
“We are excited that Joni will be the recipient of the prestigious Les Paul Innovation Award,” said Michael Braunstein, executive director of The Les Paul Foundation. “Like Les, she has been a trailblazer and a true renaissance woman; a songwriter, musician, producer and influencer who made her mark with very influential songs in the 60s. She has pushed the boundaries of what it means to be a female singer-songwriter over the course of her four decade career, and like Les Paul, she’s never been scared to take creative risks. We are thrilled that Joni Mitchell will join the list of extraordinary recipients that represent the spirit of the legendary Les Paul.”
“Thank you for this honor,” said Mitchell. “I’m grateful for being appreciated.”
A consummate artist, Roberta Joan Anderson is an accomplished musician, songwriter, poet and painter. An only child, Joni’s artistic talents blossomed early as she began drawing as a young child. Always a lover of music, it wasn’t until high school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that Joni began performing. She bought a ukulele and soon began playing in the local club, The Louis Riel, in 1962.
Heading to art school in Calgary after graduation, Joni auditioned at a coffeehouse called The Depression and immediately landed a regular gig there. Weighing two viable career options, art or music, she decided to focus on the latter. In 1964, Joni moved to Toronto and immersed herself in the fledgling Yorkville folk scene – performing in coffeehouses along with other fellow unknowns Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot. It was during this time that Joni’s songwriting skills began to emerge.
Moving stateside in 1965, Joni worked the coffeehouse circuit for the next three years – playing as many as twenty sets a week. David Crosby caught her performance in a Florida club in 1967, was ‘stunned’ by her talent, and invited her to Los Angeles.
Soon thereafter Joni signed with Reprise Records. Her first record, “Song to a Seagull,” was released in 1968. Mitchell went on to serve as producer for most of her subsequent albums. She produced and recorded “Blue” (1971), a unique collection of songs, performed with an emotional honesty that resonated with a wide audience.
Mitchell’s most commercially successful LP, “Court and Spark” (1974) was created with the jazz-fusion group The LA Express. “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” (1975) steered her away from traditional pop forms into formats of complex lyrics and melodies, accompanied by a variety of jazz musicians. Her album “Hejira” (1976) shed much of the instrumentation creating a minimalist recording with an expansive ambience achieved with the help of her sound engineer, Henry Lewy, by overdubbing Joni’s electric rhythm guitar. In 1978 one of jazz’s great geniuses, Charles Mingus approached Joni to propose a collaboration. The result was “Mingus,” (1979), released shortly after Mingus’s untimely death from ALS.
“Dog Eat Dog” (1985) featured Joni’s exploration of sociopolitical themes set to complex synthesizer arrangements. In the 1990s her acoustic guitar playing came back to the forefront and produced the Grammy winning “Turbulent Indigo” (1994). She has also recorded an orchestral retrospective, “Travelogue” (2002), two live recordings, “Miles of Aisles” (1974) and “Shadows and Light.”