When you’ve been in the music business for as long as Joni Mitchell, it’s easy to comprehend how a love for creation can eventually be eroded by the murky side of the business industry. At one point, given her discontent, the great Joni Mitchell stopped listening to music altogether because her hatred of the art form grew so severe.
For health reasons, Mitchell is now retired from making music after suffering a life-threatening stroke which prevented her from continuing to create. Her final album came back in 2007 when she released Shine, but before then, she’d already lost her love of listening to music and couldn’t even bear to switch on the radio.
Mitchell was completely disconnected from what was going on in the contemporary scene and, in reality, felt liberated by it. Shine arrived as her first album in five years since 2002’s Travelogue, which was supposed to be her retirement, and it was a bitter lamentation of the music industry.
Mitchell wanted nothing more to do with the business and had felt that way for some time. She sensed the business executives behind the scenes didn’t understand how to package the singer because of her age, and the way the industry built artists up just to spit them out left a bad taste in her stomach.
“It was my time to die,” she told The Guardian about how she felt looking back at the 1980s in 2007. “The bosses were looking, thinking, ‘Oh, she’s getting old now, she’s just about 27.’ They want to dispose of you and get a 14-year-old in there.”
Mitchell said that because of her treatment, “I came to hate music. I listened only to talk shows for 10 years.” Surprisingly, it was after she asked her management if they could arrange for her to compile a CD for Starbucks’ Artist’s Choice series that she began to appreciate music once again.
“I listened to everything I ever loved to see if it held up, and much did,” she told the publication. “So I put together one that starts with Debussy, then takes a journey up through Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday and Miles Davis, and then Louis Jordan.”
She added: “That joyous music was conceived in such terrible times – and it was such a great relief to the culture at the time. That’s the trouble with now. Now we’ve got a horrible culture, horrible times and horrible music.”
It’s a damning indictment of the times that Mitchell felt that way about the industry, and undoubtedly, as a woman, it is incredibly more difficult than for their male peers. During the 1980s, labels would rather create a new star to place on the conveyor belt who was young and naive because it was easier than navigating Joni through a more complex stage of her career. In the end, Mitchell felt she had no option but to quit.