The ultimate guide to Joni Mitchell: A perfect 17-hour chronological playlist of 248 genre-defining songs
“To enjoy my music, you need depth and emotionality.”—Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell, the iconic Canadian singer-songwriter whose music has successfully managed to blend elements of folk, pop, rock, and jazz, is an undoubted icon of the late 20th century.
Arguably one of the most influential female musicians in the history of popular music, Mitchell’s rise from the moment she released her debut album Song to a Seagull in 1968 has been nothing short of meteoric. With 19 studio records to her name, the most recent coming in the shape of 2007 effort Shine, Mitchell has successfully delivered her message while flipping between the piano and her unconventionally tuned guitar like no other.
“I paid a big price for doing what I’ve done,” Mitchell once said in an interview with Rolling Stone on reflection of her career. “I started working in a genre that was neither this nor that. People didn’t know where I fit in anymore, so they didn’t play me at all. And so I disappeared. I lost my ability to broadcast, my public access. It was worth it. I would do it all over again in a minute for the musical education. But, of course, it hurt. Your records are like your kids. And you want to say, ‘Don’t bloody my baby’s nose when I send him to school, because he’s a nice kid. You just don’t understand him. He’s a little different, but if you try, you’ll like him.’”
With popular songs like ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, ‘Woodstock‘, ‘Help Me’, ‘Coyote’ and countless others, Mitchell’s vocal range while tackling themes of disillusionment, romance, joy and more has established her as one of the greatest songwriters of all time and influenced countless other artists in the process.
While Mitchell has been cited by her most famous songs, she has always been quick to downplay the major significance: “Let’s not call them my biggies,” she once said about her most recognised material. “Let’s call them the most gregarious of my children. ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – I like the life that it has. I didn’t intend it to be a children’s song, but it has become one.”
For a lot of people trying to explore the work of Mitchell, the challenge can be a daunting one. 19 albums and so many rarities hidden among the iconic numbers, the singer’s back catalogue has some of the most highly celebrated songwriters purring with admiration. “My first four albums covered the usual youth problems—looking for love in all the wrong places—while the next five are basically about being in your 30s,” she once said somewhat nonchalantly.
Here, as an attempt to breakdown Mitchell’s work in a digestible medium, we’re exploring her work in chronological order. From Court and Spark to Dog Eat Dog, we’ve collected Mitchell’s music in order for you to work through her work and soundtrack what is a difficult period of self-isolation.