The 10 Joni Mitchell songs everyone should know


Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words is now available in bookstores across the country. Joni Mitchell is one of Canada's most iconic and influential singer/songwriters. Over the course of her four-decade career, she's produced 19 studio albums, two live albums and a handful of compilation albums. She's been named to many "greatest of all time" lists and counts the Order of Canada and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award among her many accolades.

Based on three interviews that musician, singer and journalist Malka Marom conducted with Mitchell in 1973, 1979 and 2012, the book explores Joni's life, work and creative process through the women's revealing and intimate conversations.

The 1973 and 1979 conversations were broadcast on CBC Radio.


Since Joni is such a prolific artist, CBC Books wanted to create a primer for Joni fans new and old. Check out what we think are 10 of Joni's most definitive songs. Let us know what you'd add to the list in the comments!

"Both Sides, Now" from Clouds (1969)

Written by Mitchell in 1967 and originally recorded by Judy Collins, "Both Sides, Now" was inspired by Saul Bellow's Henderson and the Rain King. Clouds was Mitchell's second album.

"Big Yellow Taxi" from Ladies of the Canyon (1970)

Mitchell wrote her most famous song after a trip to Hawaii, where she could see beautiful mountains in the distance from her hotel room window - along with "a parking lot as far as the eye could see." The song has been covered several times, most famously by the Counting Crows in 2002.

"Woodstock" from Ladies of the Canyon (1970)

Joni Mitchell wrote "Woodstock" after watching the famed music festival from a hotel room in New York City. She was not able to attend because she was scheduled to appear on a television show and it wasn't possible to make both appearances happen. Ladies of the Canyon was Mitchell's third album.

"River" from Blue (1971)

Despite "River" never being released as a single, it has become one of Mitchell's most iconic songs. It's been covered more than 200 times by artists like Roseanne Cash, Tori Amos and Cee Lo Green, and has appeared in several films and television shows, including Almost Famous, Love Actually and The Wonder Years.

"California" from Blue (1971)

Mitchell wrote "California" while she was living in France, but missing her home in California. It was the second single from Blue, which is often considered Mitchell's most important and accomplished record.

"Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" from For the Roses (1972)

When Mitchell's recording label wanted her to record a pop hit, she wrote this instead. "Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" was Mitchell's first Top 10 hit in Canada and her first Top 40 hit in the United States.

"Help Me" from Court and Spark (1974)

Surprisingly, "Help Me" is Mitchell's only song to crack the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Court and Spark was her sixth album.

"The Wolf that Lives in Lindsey" from Mingus (1979)

In 1979, Mitchell released her 10th studio album, Mingus, which was a collaboration between the singer/songwriter and Charles Mingus, an accomplished jazz musician. This song represents the album's unusual and experimental tone.

"Lakota," Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (1988)

Mitchell wrote this song as a response to witnessing the destruction of North American indigenous culture. The album, which was Mitchell's 13th, features many collaborations with artists who were popular in the 1980s, including Peter Gabriel, Billy Idol and Tom Petty.

"Sex Kills" from Turbulent Indigo (1994)

Turbulent Indigo, Mitchell's 15th album, won Pop Album of the Year at the 1994 Grammy Awards. "Sex Kills" addressed many social issues of the day head-on, including climate change, capitalism and the AIDS epidemic.