Björk oozes originality, and for the last four decades, she has constantly dodged conventions as if they were missiles. A lot has changed since she arrived as a child star in her native Iceland aged 12, yet, Joni Mitchell has consistently remained as a bundle of inspiration.
After being thrust into the limelight as a childhood prodigy, Björk has never been afraid of reinventing herself. For a brief moment in her late teens, the artist was a punk rocker with Tappi Tíkarras before moving into avant-garde territory with The Sugarcubes.
Perhaps, avant-garde is the most fitting way to summarise Björk if you were forced to put her in a genre labelled box at gunpoint. Contrastingly, Joni Mitchell is a folkie. Yet, they are both blessed with a talent that simply cannot be replicated, although many have tried.
Another similarity between the two artists is how they both left their homeland behind, searching for a dream and accompanying themselves with like-minded creatives. For Mitchell, she left Canada and went south of the border. Meanwhile, Björk arrived in London following the split of The Sugarcubes. They both have an innate need to stay progressive and keep moving in all aspects of life.
A few years ago, Björk was asked by The Rest Is Noise to try and attempt to create a comprehensive list of albums that have had a lasting impression on her life. Naturally, this is no easy feat when your life has been almost entirely devoted to music and, of course, that you’ve spent your whole life deliberately not settling on any one type of music — but she gave it a go anyway.
Surprisingly, the record by Mitchell that Björk picked out wasn’t Blue or Court & Spark, but Don Juan’s Daughter. The album arrived in her life at a poignant time during her teenage years and continues to have a lasting impact to this day.
“The first record of hers I discovered was Don Juan’s Daughter; I was around fourteen, fifteen and I knew it by heart (still do, every instrument, every noise, every word),” she said, adding: “I would love to cover sometime some of the songs of that album but they might be too sacred for me, too immaculate for me even to be able to suggest that they might be done in any other way.”
Explaining further and detailing how Joni Mitchell’s artistry impacted her vision from a very young age, Björk added: “At that age my love for her was very intuitive and limitless with total ignorance of her meaning in North America in the hippy era, for example. I guess now later when I am a bit more knowledgeable about foreigners and history and context and such things I understand better her importance to the world and why she made such an impact on a teenage girl in Iceland.
“In a music-world ruled by males she continues to be the only one (except perhaps Kate Bush) who created an all-female universe with intuition, wisdom, intelligence, craftsmanship, and courage: had the guts to set up a world driven by extreme female emotion, almost any other female out there is fronting an already male-made sensibility,” she added in reference to Mitchell.
While the record isn’t the most celebrated one that Mitchell has ever recorded, the reality is that Don Juan’s Daughter was seen as somewhat of a commercial flop at the time of its release in 1977, disregarded by critics. However, it went on to inspire one of the most fiercely original minds of recent times.