Joni Mitchell's Blue at 50: Three Canadian musicians share covers from the iconic album
Terra Lightfoot, Tami Neilson and Zaki Ibrahim share their takes on some of the album's most-loved songs
Joni Mitchell's Blue is widely considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time.
Raw and honest, it has landed on dozens of "best of" lists. In 2012, Pitchfork described it as "possibly the most gutting break-up album ever made."
The record, released in June 1971, stands as a milestone in the Canadian musician's career. Its vulnerability and intricate vocal lines have inspired countless covers and influenced artists across generations.
As Mitchell's iconic album turns 50, Day 6 asked three Canadian musicians to reflect on some of Blue's most treasured songs, and offer their own rendition.
A Case of You, covered by Terra Lightfoot
Hamilton-based musician Terra Lightfoot calls Mitchell a "master" of the guitar. "She was lauded by all musicians," she told Day 6.
"It didn't matter that she was a woman. She was great and at that time, you know, that wasn't an easy thing."
Blue was a defining record for Lightfoot as a songwriter, and a constant companion during pivotal moments in her life. "Joni's right there with me holding my hand with this record," she said.
The song A Case of You takes Lightfoot back to her 20s, when she recalls listening to Blue on a janky record player in the apartment she shared with her roommate.
"I remember her putting on A Case of You and pausing and telling me like, 'This is such a jam,'" Lightfoot recalled. "And I remember at the time she had started dating the man she was to marry and now has a child with — but at the time it wasn't going well.
"And I remember her going through her own love story and coming to a point realizing like, 'This is the guy, this is the person for me, I could drink a case of you and I would still be on my feet.'"
"I don't think there's a better way to say I love you."
LISTEN | Terra Lightfoot's cover of A Case of You
River, covered by Tami Neilson
Tami Neilson first discovered Blue as a teenager.
"I was on tour with my family band all around Canada and the U.S. and for my birthday one year, my dad gave me the Blue album on CD," she told Day 6. "I was immediately obsessed."
That album, Neilson says, "gave me that kind of permission and confidence to become the writer and the artist and the producer that I am today."
For Canadian-born Neilson, the song River dives into the pain of homesickness, a sentiment that resonated deeply during her first Christmas living abroad in New Zealand.
"Being in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are flipped so it's really it's hot and it's summery, and it's so strange to be decorating your Christmas tree and in shorts and a tank top," she said.
"I remember putting on the Blue album and the song River came on and I just immediately started sobbing because I know this song is about regret over a broken relationship.... But for me, it just became this song about homesickness and longing, and the longing was to be home."
LISTEN | Tami Neilson's cover of River
All I Want, covered by Zaki Ibrahim
Before the pandemic, Zaki Ibrahim hadn't spent a lot of time with Joni Mitchell's repertoire. But as she has gotten to know Blue, she says, "I feel like it's opened up some things in me."
"The way that she uses her voice, the way that she uses her songwriting and the collaborations that she's made, I think it's just about her as a spirit, as a person, as a soul that I'm really feeling drawn to at the moment," Ibrahim, who is currently based in Toronto, told Day 6.
When Day 6 approached her to record a cover of a song from the album, Ibrahim initially chose Little Green.
"I couldn't get through it without crying ... So I had to choose another song because I just couldn't keep it together," she said.
So she turned to the more spirited All I Want.
"I feel like I'm this kind of or die-hard romantic," said Ibrahim. "And there's this line in All I Want that she just says she's looking for the key to set me free."
"And I think that that's what love is. I think love is meant to be freedom, and love is part of creation itself."
LISTEN | Zaki Ibrahim's cover of All I Want
Written by Jason Vermes. Interviews produced by Annie Bender.
Hear full episodes of Day 6 on CBC Listen, our free audio streaming service.