Joni Mitchell’s gift for singing, songwriting, and following the beat of her own drum has made her a beloved icon in folk, pop, and rock. Her music is known for being eclectic, saturated in emotion, socially conscious, and ever-evolving. She released 19 studio albums between 1968 and 2007, featuring well-known songs such as “Big Yellow Taxi,” “A Case of You,” and “Both Sides Now.” She’s won nine Grammys — including for folk, pop, best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalists, and lifetime achievement — and is a member of the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame in Canada, the country where she was born Roberta Joan Anderson in 1943.
Some of Mitchell’s first expressive musical experiences were through her church choir and piano lessons. She quickly began to write her own songs, and she taught herself the ukulele and guitar. Mitchell stands out as a singer who pours herself into highly personal work. She once said she seeks to create music that “strikes against the very nerves of [the listener’s] life, and, in order to do that, you have to strike against the very nerves of your own.” She often expressed her discomfort with fame and her disillusionment with the music industry, saying she preferred performing in intimate coffee shops to the big stage. Joni Mitchell's vulnerable and honest songwriting continues to influence musicians and inspire listeners today. Here are 15 of her most moving song lyrics.
Laughing and crying, you know it's the same release.
— "People's Parties"
All I really, really want our love to do is to bring out the best in me and in you, too...
— “All I Want”
Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone.
— “Big Yellow Taxi”
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day.
— “Both Sides Now”
We are stardust, we are golden,
and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
In our possessive coupling, so much could not be expressed.
So now I'm returning to myself these things that you and I suppressed.
I remember that time you told me, you said, ‘Love is touching souls.’
Surely you touched mine, 'cause part of you pours out of me
in these lines from time to time.
— “Case of You”
We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came.
— "Circle Game"
My old man, keeping away my blues.
— “My Old Man”
Oh, my friend, what time is this, to trade the handshake for the fist?
— “The Fiddle And The Drum”
We love our lovin'
But not like we love our freedom.
— “Help Me”
Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine, you taste so bitter and so sweet.
Oh I could drink a case of you, darling, and I would still be on my feet.
— “Case of You”
I want to be strong, I want to laugh along,
I want to belong to the living.
— “All I Want”
He saw my complications, and he mirrored me back simplified.
And we laughed how our perfection would always be denied.
‘Heart and humor and humility,’ he said, ‘will lighten up your heavy load.’
— “Refuge Of The Roads”
Oh it gets so lonely when you're walking, and the streets are full of strangers.
Oh California, I'm coming home.
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