The Music of Joni Mitchell


Hello everyone. I was watching an old episode of "This Is Us," as I've recently started watching the show, and they played a song by Joni Mitchell called "Both Sides Now" that I really liked. I'm not familiar with the music of Joni Mitchell at all, but after hearing the clip, I listened to the full song, and really found that it was both deep and philosophical, which is rare to find in music today, so I appreciate this song from an earlier era.

For any board members that are familiar with Joni Mitchell and the song, I'd love to hear from you, what do you think it means? What was she trying to communicate with the song? How do you interpret it, and what resonance does it have for you? Has she ever talked about why she wrote it or how to interpret its meaning? I find the song to be profound, but am not sure that I really understand it, and wanted to seek all of your thoughts to help enrich my appreciation of it, and thought this could generate a nice dialogue.

Also, for those who like Joni Mitchell, if I like "Both Sides Now", are there any other similar songs that you'd recommend, or any other artists with similar songs that you think I might like? I am not very knowledgeable about music, so could really use everyone's guidance on that.

To refresh everyone's memory, or if you aren't familiar with the song, here's a link to it from Youtube (it was originally recorded in the 1960's, but I heard her re-recording of it that she recorded in 2000, which is linked below, and I think I like this version better, since it has more poignancy for me). I am kind of shocked that Joni Mitchell wrote it when she was in her 20's, since it demonstrates a wisdom that was way beyond her years at the time:

Joni in a great performance in The Last Waltz.

Iím here only on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. Thatís why Iím here now.

Joni's song "Both Sides Now" also features prominently in the recent Oscar Best Picture winner CODA. I didn't watch the "This Is Us" finale, but the version you linked to above is one she did later in her career, a remake of her own material. This is the original, as well as Emilia Jones's version from CODA...

As for where to start with Joni Mitchell's catalog, I very strongly recommend the album Blue. It was her fourth album and is widely considered a masterpiece. As is implied in the title it is a largely melancholy piece, but her lyrics, musicianship, and emotions were never more viscerally expressed. Every track is marvelous and each fan has their favorites, but a few I would highlight are "A Case of You", "River", "Little Green", and "California".

As for some of her music other than Blue, while "Both Sides Now" is making a strong case in the past couple years to be one of her most well-known and pop culturally accessed songs, that title still may go to "Big Yellow Taxi", a fun, quick, bright little tune that was later covered by The Counting Crows at the height of their popularity.

I believe her biggest chart hit with the most radio play was "Help Me", which hit number one on Billboard in 1974. A perfect pop song. Almost as if she was proving that she could write a Carly Simon-like hit if she wanted to.

Joni was scheduled to play Woodstock, but her manager nixed it after seeing what a madhouse it was, fearing if she went she might get stuck there and not meet other obligations. Turned out to be a shortsighted, bonehead call from her management as acts wound up being flown in and out by helicopter, so she missed her music being a part of that historic event. However, even without going she wrote probably the best song about the festival titled simply "Woodstock". Which was rocked up and covered by her then-boyfriend Graham Nash and CSN&Y, who had the bigger hit record. They did fly in and out.

"Free Man in Paris" was also a hit from the same album as "Help Me", Court and Spark, where she was playing with more jazzy influences than her folk roots.

I do very highly recommend Blue, but I'm also not above a greatest hits album. Hers was titled simply Hits, and cheekily was followed by Misses, a collection of her favorites that didn't gain as much popularity for whatever reason.

Anyway, that should get you going on the wonderfulness that is Joni Mitchell.


"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

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Which was rocked up and covered by her then-boyfriend Stephen Stills and CSN&Y, who had the bigger hit record.

I don't think she ever dated Stills... She was with Crosby for a short time, but then had a relationship with Graham Nash.

Wonderful post, Holden! Thank you! I will check out "Blue".

Matt and Stirchley, thanks as well for your contributions.

I don't think she ever dated Stills... She was with Crosby for a short time, but then had a relationship with Graham Nash.
Grahamís sweet song about him & Joan living together. He said she broke his heart.