Born Roberta Joan Anderson, November 7, 1943 (age 74) Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada
I have included some covers of Joni’s songs in previous posts but there is more to be said about her amazing talent and song writing ability. Firstly, her guitar playing is superb and what makes it all the more remarkable is the fact she had polio as a child (age 9) and as a result has weakness in her left hand in particular. Despite this she learned ukulele, piano and then guitar creating her own tunings to compensate, resulting in a very unique sound. While standard tunings (determining the string pitch) were then commonly used, Joni turned to open tunings which reduced the dependency on her left hand. If you research guitar tunings Joni Mitchell comes up frequently and remains a guide and influencer in this area. Rolling Stone ranks her at #75 of the world’s best guitarists and she (along with fellow Canadians Sue Foley and Liona Boyd) ranks in the top female guitarists on just about any other authoritative list you can find.
Her songs have been collectively covered thousands of times and she has influenced countless other musicians and has gained an incredible following. I also have long enjoyed her music, but I must confess much in the same way with Leonard Cohen I came late to fully appreciate her genius. Unfortunately, I have yet to have the chance to see her perform.
“Both Sides Now” written by Joni Mitchell and originally recorded by Judy Collins in 1967 and this would be her highest charting hit song.
Covers by Leonard Nimoy, Frank Sinatra, Dion and Anne Murray would follow and then Joni herself recorded the song in May of 1969.
After that hundreds more would follow, Secondhandsongs.com has 252 documented covers while JoniMitchell.com lists 1247 different versions. Here a few more.
Perpetuum Jazzile a choir from Slovenia. There are dozens of instrumental versions and also recorded in Czech, Dutch, French, German, Swedish and Danish.
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “Both Sides, Now” at #171 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Muriel Anderson is one of the most recent artists to cover this song, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her perform in person and she is an amazing talent and one of the best musicians you’ll ever hear. She is also ranked as one of the best guitarists in the world, check her out at http://murielanderson.com/.
“Big Yellow Taxi” written and performed by Joni Mitchell. Released on Ladies of the Canyon 1970. Here is a good audio version accompanying a not so great video quality animated short produced for the “Sonny and Cher Show”.
Covered at least 78 times (acc. to Secondhandsongs) including Bob Dylan in 1973. Joni Mitchell.com lists 432 versions.
Here are The Counting Crows from 2002 feat. Vanessa Carlton and used on the “Two Weeks Notice” soundtrack. Even Green Day fans know the words to this song! Nena, the German new wave singer of “99 Luftballons” fame
“Blue” from the Album of the same name in 1971. Written by Joni Mitchell
Covered here by Sarah McLachlan, Morgan James has done a whole album of Joni covers, at the 13:47 mark – Blue
“Edith and the Kingpin” written and performed by Joni Mitchell, 1975.
This song I came to appreciate when I heard this cover from one of my favorite musicians and although he has a vast amount of original material he is also a master at covering songs. Elvis Costello (A Tribute to Joni Mitchell-2007)
And the Tina Turner version Herbie Hancock and Elvis are discussing, from Hancock’s 2008 Grammy award winning album “The Joni Letters” which I encourage you to look up also.
From JoniMitchell.com, Complete list of known recordings. Click the song title to view the list of artists who’ve recorded it. This is just the top 10.
- Both Sides Now (covered 1247 times)
- River (621)
- Big Yellow Taxi (432)
- A Case Of You (355)
- Woodstock (335)
- The Circle Game (246)
- All I Want (129)
- Chelsea Morning (116)
- Twisted (102)
- Blue (98)
Just a note on the discrepancy between Secondhandsongs.com and Joni Mitchell.com. Secondhandsongs is a site run by volunteers and although I think the most comprehensive source I’ve found for cover songs it’s based largely on songs submitted by people (like me) and then verified. Obviously the Joni Mitchell people had the time to build a list focused on just her.
http://jonimitchell.com/, https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/the-magic-of-joni-mitchells-open-tunings/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joni_Mitchell, http://www.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Features/en-us/Guitar-Gals.aspx, https://www.guitarplayer.com/players/50-sensational-female-guitarists
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