Our musical tastes are formed by a variety of ways. My first influence was my mother. I knew who Elvis was before I could shake my hips and dance in my blue suede shoes! I even knew old school and (then) contemporary (nowadays “classics” and the classics “that old stuff”) country music. One day my I was gifted some 45s of one of my uncles and it was all over. The Beatles were the thing. And musical experimentation of an odd teen (i.e.: I was not listening to the contemporary music but the sounds of my 1950’s aunt; 1960’s uncle and 1970’s mom) went forth. Somewhere along the line I heard my mother talk about Joni Mitchell. Another uncle liked her. Mom? Not a fan. Without realizing it, I think I have always been a bit biased against her. I found folk music (along with some music we shall not name as it is sacred, and others just do not understand) but Joni never came up. Therefore, I went at Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell blind.
I figure if you are writing a biography, you probably are a fan of the subject and there is no question that Selina Alko is a fan of Mitchell. I still cannot name a Joni Mitchell song, but I can see how she influence the music scene and how it influenced her. How could it not when you hang around the likes of Bob Dylan and Mama Cass? And those are just a few of the heavy hitters she encountered. The highlights of Ms. Mitchell’s life are the focus. Things you might not know about her (and even familiar gems) grace the pages of Alko’s work. The art is mixed media with realistic abstract elements. They are colorful and bold. And to me probably meant to be as lyrical as fans consider her music. While I enjoyed reading about the life of Joni, I was appreciating the illustrations more. That gave me the idea of the spirit Alko thinks Mitchell is.
I honestly cannot see a lot of kids being interested in folk music or Mitchell. However, the good thing about this book is, it is here if they are! It is here for a piece of Women’s History we do not usually hear about. It is here for a piece of Canadian history. It is here for a piece of music history. The book is here to be experienced. It is a nice introduction for ages 5 to 8/9 (you could go higher but the picture book format might be a turn off) and of course, if you are looking for a quirky book for your adult friend.