A new biography of the musical icon, telling the 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 of the 1970s, and the songwriter who spoke resonantly to, and for, audiences across the country.
In the best full-length treatment of Mitchell yet published, Yaffe follows her from her childhood in postwar Saskatchewan all the way up to a Chick Corea concert last year, her first public appearance after suffering an aneurysm in 2015. Yaffe was granted extraordinary access to the famously standoffish Mitchell, as well as to many of her closest friends and collaborators, including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joan Baez, David Crosby, Judy Collins, and the late Leonard Cohen. Making the most of his proximity, he pulls off the feat that has eluded so many of his predecessors: He forges an intimacy with Mitchell on her own, uncompromising terms by truly listening to her, as closely and as generously as she’s always deserved ... Yaffe’s greatest accomplishment in Reckless Daughter, stuffed though it is with insightful reporting, is to shed light not just on the artist but also on the art. Yaffe brings a sophisticated and exceptionally careful ear to music that demands nothing less.
Yaffe wants to 'understand the mind' that wrote Mitchell’s songs. He creates his portrait using biographical information and extensive quotations from interviews that Mitchell has given to him and others...Though this format allows us to see multiple sides of Mitchell, it also tests our opinion of her as an artist and as a person. Regardless if one likes or dislikes her, no one can dispute that courage and vulnerability have been the motivating forces in both her life and art ... Yaffee seldom comments on Mitchell’s abrasiveness, but he’s quick to point out the rampant sexism in the music industry that may have prompted it, most notably when Rolling Stone named Mitchell the 'Queen of El Lay.' Where Yaffe should intervene is when Mitchell makes outlandish and self-serving statements about music ... Yaffe solidly traces the glory and gloom of a musical career that expanded our ears and hearts...To his credit, Yaffe treats every album, even the nonsellers of the 1980s — what Mitchell called 'The Lost Years' — with respect and equanimity, nor does he shy away from detailing her miscalculations.
...a vivid and dramatic book … Yaffe dedicates substantial space to what we could call the second Joni Mitchell. This artist is the one who comes after the waifish early years of her creative apex, an ex-folksinger trying to make her way through the ‘80s, getting narcissistic and angry and broke … Young Mitchell, the one who spat out ‘The Circle Game’ at 23, is such an icon to music fans that she seems to lie beyond the grasp of acceptable criticism. This Joni Mitchell, not the person but the icon, is a fantasy of the bohemian woman, a goddess, a person no more human or connected to the rest of culture than the Virgin Mary … Idealizing women into smaller versions of themselves is destructive, even, or especially, when the full picture contains details we’d rather ignore.