There are few artists that can match the lyrical and emotive power of a Joni Mitchell song and, across 367 tracks of this playlist, she chronicles her entire life. The folk singer started her career in Canada with a song in her heart and pure intentions to have it heard by everyone. Soon enough, Mitchell caught the attention of the growing counter-culture and soon became, alongside contemporaries Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, one of the foremost folk artists in North America and across the globe.
Through a plethora of studio albums, Mitchell has proved that she is one of the most special songwriting talents modern music has ever seen. It’s an extensive career which has seen the singer, a noted vocalist as well as songwriter, become recognised as one of the founding pillars of music as we know it. If we had released this playlist last month, it wouldn’t have included the singer’s latest release — a collection of recordings and rough takes of some classic folk songs — Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1. Over 119 tracks, we get a vision of Mitchell’s early life which is a sweet addition to her canon.
It’s a vision that can be seen from across her albums, that of Joni Mitchell’s life away from the spotlight. One of the most confessional songwriters the world has ever seen, Mitchell even uses her covers to imbue the song with her own expression. It’s something potently seen on the new releases and was shown in her early career as a travelling singer across Canadian TV. But elsewhere on the playlist, Mitchell has an array of songs which offer glimpses into her life.
The tracks that offer up the first steps in getting to know the music and the person behind the legend are dotted across her musical canon of studio albums. Like ‘I Had a King’, on her debut record from 1968 Song to a Seagull (where the archives release ends), Mitchell displays all of the poetic qualities and pop sensibilities that would make her music not only wholly unique but utterly captivating. It was the first shape of Mitchell’s writing coming into focus.
‘A Case of You’ is another singular track that will forever define the idea of a confessional song, about which and the album from it comes from, Mitchell said: “The Blue album, there’s hardly a dishonest note in the vocals.” The song is a view on a blossoming relationship after it has begun to wilt in the sun. The track’s beginning is a poetic nod to the past and a resounding picture of life after love, “Just before our love got lost, you said, ‘I am as constant as a northern star,’ and I said/’Constantly in the darkness – where’s that at? If you want me I’ll be in the bar.’”
Of course, there’s plenty more landmark moments across Mitchell’s career and big songs like ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ ‘Hejira’ and ‘Both Sides Now’ which litter this playlist with the sprinkling flick of an artisan chef. However, perhaps where Mitchell excels the most is in her studio albums. It is within these collections of songs that one can leave the reality around them and get lost in the words of Joni Mitchell like the seasoned author, underneath it all, she really is.
So, if you’re looking for the ultimate Joni Mitchell playlist, compiled of her complete list of 367 tracks, then we’ve got just the thing for you. Below, listen to Joni Mitchell chronicling her own life through her beautiful songs.