Joni Mitchell is a timeless artist, it’s as simple as that. There’s so much to admire about her endless skillset, her serial innovation, as well as never wanting to rest on her laurels by continuously pushing herself to new boundaries.
Mitchell’s truly stunning vocal set her apart from her contemporaries, who could write beautiful songs, but lacked her angelic voice. While she may have made her name initially as a searing songwriter, it didn’t take long for her voice to become her star quality. Mitchell’s singing could unveil dark truths of her lyrics in a way that has never been done before, but plenty have attempted to replicate since.
Her rich career has been a source of inspiration for countless artists who have never been shy about how they owe it to Joni. However, very few artists have succinctly managed to delicately balance artistic integrity and success in the same way as Mitchell. Her career is an artist’s dream.
Mitchell has proven herself as the perfect blend of tradition and innovation across her historic career, and here are ten artists who have sculpted themselves in a certain way because of Joni. As this influence shows, her influence knows no bounds.
10 artists influenced by Joni Mitchell:
Laura Marling is as close to a modern-day British Joni Mitchell as you could expect to find. The parallels between the two talents are crystal clear. It’s no surprise that Mitchell played a key part in Marling’s childhood, helping her subliminally grown into the artist she’d later become.
“Court and Spark was the first album I owned that I listened to over and over,” she told For Folk Sake in 2010. “It’s actually quite easy listening, the lyrics are simple but striking and the craftsmanship of the entire album is really special. She bridges a few gaps between genres she later went into with more depth, so it’s the one I always come back to, but it’s closely followed by Blue and Hejira.
“I remember my father playing me Same Situation when I was a nipper, and saying how nobody since has done melodies as well as Joni Mitchell. I concur. The thing that most affected me was just her resonance, and that is something she must have been born with.”
Norah Jones has won nine Grammy’s throughout her spectacularly successful career so far, and she revealed earlier this year that Joni Mitchell has become a more significant source of inspiration for her as she gets older. How Mitchell successfully aged gracefully as an artist is something that she hopes to replicate.
“I’ve always been excited about getting older and singing like an older person,” she told Paste. “I always loved older Joni Mitchell. I mean, I love young Joni Mitchell, too. But I loved where her voice went—I love that. I love that it changes. I mean, my playing has also changed quite a bit. It’s just … just changed.”
Haim are another group that were raised in a household in which Joni Mitchell was constantly played on repeat, a factor that held a special place in the hearts of the all-sister group since childhood.
Last year, Danielle Haim described Mitchell’s 1974 live album Miles of Aisles as the first album that made her fall in love with music: “There’s a little bit of everything,” she told Rolling Stone, adding: “Songs from all her albums up until then, and she’s playing them with the L.A. Express, which was this amazing jazz band.”
Her sister, Este, added: “[Mitchell] was getting more into jazz in the seventies, so the record is a reimagining of a lot of her early work through this jazz lens.”
Alana Haim discussed how “every year her songs take on new meanings,” before adding” “I think that’s the beauty of Joni,” she said. “Discovering new things in her music. I could listen to a song like ‘A Case of You’ when I was in my early twenties, and that song has taken on a whole new meaning now that I’m almost 30,” she profoundly added.
New Zealander Lorde burst onto international fame when she was only 16, but she’s always wanted to be like a Joni Mitchell rather than your typical modern pop star. Integrity is the most important thing to the singer and paramount to any chart riches.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2017, Lorde said: “I think I’m pretty good now. I think I’ve made a good start. But I want to be Paul Simon.” The publication then reports that she thumped her hands on the table and passionately added, “I want to be Leonard Cohen. I want to be Joni. Fucking. Mitchell. And that takes time.”
Dylan invited Mitchell to take part on his now-legendary Rolling Thunder Revue tour. A beautiful highlight of the tour was when the pair shared the makeshift stage to perform her newly written track, ‘Coyote’. He also once remarked about his former colleague, “Joni’s got a strange sense of rhythm that’s all her own.”
Although Mitchell has been insulting towards Dylan over the years by calling him a fake – among other things – he has always bitten his tongue, still seemingly in awe of her talent. Even though they didn’t see eye to eye from a personal perspective, touring with Joni was an inspiring experience for Dylan.
Multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire James Blake first covered Joni Mitchell in 2011, when his version of ‘A Case Of You’ appeared on his Enough Thunder EP. This reimagined cover has become one of his most well-loved efforts and even got the Joni Mitchell seal of approval when she came to see him live around that period, which was a life-affirming experience for the Englishman.
Speaking to The Independent in 2013, Blake said: “Until writing my first album I’d only listened to Blue, and after the album was made I progressed in a reverse chronology to Clouds and Song to a Seagull. As embarrassing as it is to admit how little of her discography I actually have, I like the idea that I’ll enjoy Joni’s work over my lifetime, as though slowly peeling back the drape to uncover the larger picture.
“Meeting her assured me that the process will never be dull. She has a biting irony and we spent a lot of the evening laughing. Experiencing this side of her made me rethink some lyrics from Clouds and Blue. With her advice still fresh in my mind, on the plane home I wrote my second album, Overgrown.”
He concluded: “Joni’s music always reminds me that melody is flexible, and that if you want to reinvent yourself as she continually has, you should command it to bend and ebb and flow, and treat it as king. She is a great remedy to melodic block.”
It is difficult to comprehend just how much the supreme artistry of both Björk and Joni Mitchell has impacted the music industry as we know it today. A supremely male-driven industry, while both musicians were at the peak of their powers, both Björk and Mitchell muscled their art to the top and paved the way for countless others behind them.
“It is hard to even begin to talk about what Joni Mitchell means to me,” Björk once wrote on her official website. “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 added. “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.”
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey’s chart-topping recent album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, ends with a startling cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘For Free‘, which is a song that connects with her on a visceral level. She told MOJO that the track means “everything” to her.
“The way things started off for me in the way I was portrayed was that I was feigning emotional sensitivity. I really didn’t like that,” she added. “Because I didn’t even get famous ’til I was, like, 27 and until then, I sang for less than free. And I loved it. I really was that girl who was pure of soul. I didn’t give a fuck.”
St. Vincent’s track, ‘The Melting Of The Sun’, sees her pay homage to those she hero-worships and fittingly, Joni Mitchell is on the receiving end of a shout-out from Annie Clark. Mitchell is also an artist who she’s covered whenever she gets a chance.
“People tried to quiet them when they were saying something that was righteous or true or hard to hear,” Clark said in a statement accompanying the effort. “[That song] in particular is a love letter to strong, brilliant female artists. Each of them survived in an environment that was in a lot of ways hostile to them.”
On the track, she croons: “Saint Joni ain’t no phoney, Smoking reds where Furry sang the blues, My Marilyn shot her heroin hell she said it’s better than abuse, So who am I trying to be? A benzo beauty queen.”
Prince was always coy on what he shared with the media and rarely gave a glimpse into the music that made him tick. Although in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1985, Prince claimed to have not fallen in love with a record for ten years since called Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns from 1975, which he described as being “the last album I loved all the way through.”
The love was reciprocal, with Mitchell once calling him the best artist to checklist her as an influence. She once recalled her memory of seeing him in the audience as a teenager at one of her show, telling New York Magazine: “Prince attended one of my concerts in Minnesota. I remember seeing him sitting in the front row when he was very young. He must have been about 15. He was in an aisle seat and he had unusually big eyes,” she said.