Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell (Hardcover)

Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell By Ann Powers Cover Image

Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell (Hardcover)


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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. 

Ann Powers is NPR’s music critic and correspondent. In the decade she has worked with NPR, she has written extensively on music and culture, appeared regularly on the All Songs Considered podcast, and news shows including All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Her books include a memoir, Weird Like Us: My Bohemian AmericaGood Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music and Piece by Piece with Tori Amos. She lives in Nashville.

Product Details ISBN: 9780062463722
ISBN-10: 0062463721
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Publication Date: June 11th, 2024
Pages: 448
Language: English

"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." — The Millions

"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, associate news editor, Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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

“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

“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)

"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