Joni Mitchell’s Mother Was ‘Horrified’ That Mitchell Lived Near Frank Zappa

After beginning her music career in Canada and advancing it in New York, Joni Mitchell decided to make the move to California. Here, she joined the scene in Laurel Canyon and became one of its most influential artists. Her house was near Frank Zappa’s, which her mother found horrifying.

Joni Mitchell is from Canada

Mitchell was born in Saskatchewan, Canada. Though her pursuit of music brought her to the United States, she says that she prefers her birth country.

“L.A. is my workplace, B.C. is my heartbeat,” she said in an interview with the Ottowa Citizen, per her official website.

She has a home in California, but Mitchell visits her property in Canada for several months every fall and spring. The house, which she’s owned since the early 1970s, is on Canada’s Sunshine Coast. Though she loves visiting, she said that she worries Canada’s cultural distance from the United States is shrinking.

“Canada has got a bad case of Americanitis,” she said. “Our governments have become too impressed with America. It’s safer sometimes to stand back a bit from the big guys.”

She bought a house near Frank Zappa

When Mitchell decided to move to California, she bought a house on Lookout Mountain in Laurel Canyon.

“I bought this little house, and David Crosby chided me for it; he said I should have looked around. But I liked that house,” she told Vanity Fair. “The hill behind my house was full of little artificial man-made caves. The house was charming. I paid $36,000 for it, but I paid it off. I probably paid more for it because I paid it off.”

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Laurel Canyon was a hotbed for music, and Mitchell was at its heart. She lived close to Zappa and could look out her window to see his property. Her mother wasn’t a fan of this view.

“My dining room looked out over Frank Zappa’s duck pond, and once when my mother was visiting, three naked girls were floating around on a raft in the pond,” she explained. “My mother was horrified by my neighborhood.”

Mitchell enjoyed the place far more than her mother did.

“In the upper hills the Buffalo Springfield were playing, and in the afternoon there was just a cacophony of young bands rehearsing,” she said. “At night it was quiet except for cats and mockingbirds. It had a smell of eucalyptus, and in the spring, which was the rainy season then, a lot of wildflowers would spring up. Laurel Canyon had a wonderful distinctive smell to it.”

Joni Mitchell inspired a generation of musicians

Her position in the Laurel Canyon scene cemented Mitchell’s position in music history. Her raw confessional lyrics and polished vocals earned her a broad fan base. Many other musicians say that she has influenced them in one way or another. Prince referenced Mitchell in his songs and wrote her fan letters. Taylor Swift expressed interest in portraying Mitchell in a biopic. Her contemporary, Bob Dylan, has also praised her writing. Chaka Khan credits Mitchell for paving the way for female songwriters.

“I think women have definitely made progress since when I started in the business,” she said in 1999, per Rolling Stone. “Joni Mitchell was certainly a pioneer in many ways. I think the progress has been made with women being able to make music independently and maintaining a lot of freedom of expression in their art.”

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