Honorary Degrees

N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may be available at the University Archives.

Name: Joni Mitchell, Doctor of Letters
Convocation date: June 4, 2018
Discipline / contribution: music ; music - performance; music - composition
Citation / biographical information:
A generational talent, hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the greatest songwriters ever”, Joni Mitchell’s musical influence is still widely heard today. While Ms. Mitchell’s success as a musician took her to cities around the world, Saskatoon—where she grew up and learned to play piano and guitar—is her hometown.
Melding folk, jazz, R&B, pop, and classical music, Ms. Mitchell’s compositions—spanning 17 albums of original music—have garnered national and international recognition including nine Grammy Awards, three Juno Awards, inductions in to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as being voted the “world’s top female singer” six times by readers of Melody Maker, England’s leading music magazine.
Describing herself as a "painter derailed by circumstance”, Ms. Mitchell is also an accomplished visual artist who pursued art following high school and created most of the cover art for her albums. Her show Voices, The Work of Joni Mitchell, was her first Canadian retrospective art exhibition, attracting fans from around the world to Saskatoon’s Mendel Art Gallery in 2000.
As a young songwriter during the 1960s, she honed her craft throughout Saskatchewan, from bonfires at Waskesiu Lake to cafés and nightclubs in Saskatoon. Her career eventually led her to Toronto and then New York, where she built a strong following while touring the East Coast and an even stronger reputation for crafting powerful songs.
Ms. Mitchell won the Grammy for Best Folk Performance of 1969 for her album, Clouds. Her third album, Ladies of the Canyon was released soon after featuring the environmental anthem “Big Yellow Taxi.” It was an instant hit on radio, and eventually became Mitchell’s first gold album. Ms. Mitchell’s next album, Blue, was released in June 1971 and was a critical and ommercial success, peaking in the top 20 in the Billboard album charts. In March 1974, the single “Help Me” came out and became Ms. Mitchell 's first and only Top 10 single.
Ms. Mitchell continued to regularly release records, with the most recent being 2007’s Shine. Throughout her career as a musician, Ms. Mitchell highlighted issues that were of broad importance to herself and the world. Her words were as powerful as her music and brought attention to issues related to war, environment and politics. This, in particular, made her especially inspirational for herfemale audience.
Ms. Mitchell’s influence is far reaching, withher work covered or sampled by artists ranging from Janet Jackson and Sarah McLachlan, to Prince and Björk. She is also recognized as a leader for steps she took to maintain artistic control of her work. To this day, she still holds the publishing rights to her music.
For a career spanning more than five decades, Ms. Mitchell has received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts, received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour, was presented with Billboard’s highest honour for creative achievement, the Century Award.
Degree received: Doctor of Letters

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