Top 100 Composers: Joni Mitchell

I can barely stand most singer/songwriters. At a local level, they're usually the people with the fewest ideas, the least knowledge of music, the least skill at playing their instrument (almost always a guitar), & the most obnoxiously sure that only 'their' music is 'real' music.

Nonetheless, there was a time, from roughly 1970-1972, when I sang other people's songs & played 12-string acoustic guitar, piano, harmonica, & fiddle - so there were people whose work I liked and they were singer/songwriters.


I probably sang more songs by The Incredible String Band & Leonard Cohen than by anyone else but, consulting the partial list of my repertoire from my teenage yeears shown above, I played country blues, Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, Tim Buckley, Woody Guthrie, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, & many others. The above list isn't complete, I'm sure I knew at least 100 songs, the ones listed above would've been things I played on the guitar - I remember playing some simple boogie-woogie on the piano & songs by The Band.

While I've been trying to pick my "Top 100 Composers", I've been concentrating on people whose music is usually much more complex & original than the work of most singer/songwriters usually is. Still, it seemed inaccurate for me to leave such folks out altogether so I started thinking about who to include & I decided to relisten to Joni Mitchell. I got 4 records by her from 1971-1973 & got rid of one of them ("Ladies of the Canyon"). I remember liking her very much but losing interest in her the more my tastes turned to avant-garde instrumentals.

Listening to the 3 remaining records by her I have I was powerfully struck by how moved I was by her. She's a competent guitarist, a competent pianist, a good songwriter, an excellent singer. She does all those things that most singer/songwriters only wish they could do. I was very impressed.

For me, though, the emotional response I had when revisiting her records was like celebrity worship - a feeling I have no desire for. It's like watching a porn-star fuck & wishing you could fuck them - but knowing you'll never meet them. I mean, I could easily fall in love with Joni Mitchell but why would I let myself do such a thing?! It would be purely a fantasy & fantasies are so much less rewarding than the real thing.

So, yes, I fall in love with Joni Mitchell when I hear her songs - but that's hardly healthy for me, it's like falling in love with a picture, there's no emotional or sexual satisfaction to be gained.

Below is a list of songs from the 3 records of hers that I have left preceeded by the relevant album cover followed by lyrics sheets for some of the songs of hers that I sang.

- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 19, 2017E.V.


In 2019, I decided to revisit Mitchell's work & finally acquaint myself with records of hers that followed "For the Roses", the point at which I'd previously lost interest. I got 10 more records by her from my favorite used records store in Pittsburgh, Jerry's, including "Ladies of the Canyon" again. What partially prompted this was seeing a copy of her "Mingus" album at a time when I was developing a deeper interest in Mingus's work. After getting that one it was the obvious next step to get everything else that I could cheaply (not always really cheasply enough). SO, those other 10 records are added below + their respective song lists.

My impression of her talent is still strong but a bit ameliorated by her staying essentially in her pop genre without ever really getting 'out'. Still, she has great guest musicians including Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, John Guerin, & Max Bennett. The problem, for me, being that even with these talented players the music has the typical pop problem that true vurtuoso imaginative playing would go contrary to what the market-targetted audience can 'handle'. Pastorius manages to display his inspired playing but the other 3 come across as competent studio musicians just filling in the niches on automatic pilot. Listen to Guerin & Bennett on Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats" & you'll hear them blazing. Nonetheless, there's still plenty of inspiration - with "Mingus" exemplifying this.

- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 24, 2019


"Song to a Seagull":

Part One: "I came to the city":

01. "I had a King"

02. "Michael from Mountains"

03. "Night in the City"

04. "Marcie"

05. "Nathan La Franeer"

Part Two: "Out of the city and down to the seaside":

06. "Sisotowbell Lane"

07. "The Dawntreader"

08. "The Pirate of Penance"

09. "Song to a Seagull"

10. "Cactus Tree"


"Ladies of the Canyon":

Side 1:

01. "Morning Morgantown"

02. "For Free"

03. "Conversation"

04. "Ladies of the Canyon"

05. "Willy"

06. "The Arrangement"

Side 2:

07. "Rainy Night House"

08. "The Priest"

09. "Blue Boy"

10. "Big Yellow Taxi"

11. "Woodstock"

12. "The Circle Game"



Side 1:

11. "All I Want"

12. "My Old Man"

13. "Little Greeen"

14. "Carey"

15. "Blue"

Side 2:

16. "California"

17. "This Flight Tonight"

18. "River"

19. "A Case of You"

20. "The Last Time I Saw Richard"


"For the Roses":

Side One:

21. "Banquet"

22. "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire"

23. "Barangrill"

24. "Lesson in Survival"

25. "Let the Wind Carry Me"

26. "For the Roses"

Side Two:

27. "See You Sometime"

28. "Electricity"

29. "You Turn Me On I'm A Radio"

30. "Blonde in the Bleachers"

31. "Woman of Heart and Mind"

32. "Judgement of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig's Tune)"




"Court and Spark":

Side 1:

01. "Court and Spark"

02. "Help Me"

03. "Free Man in Paris"

04. "People's Parties"

05. "Same Situation"

Side 2:

06. "Car on a Hill"

07. "Down to You"

08. "Just like this Train"

09. "Raised on Robbery"

10. "Trouble Child"

11. "Twisted"


"Miles of Aisles" - live with The L.A. Express:

Side 1:

01. "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio"

02. "Big Yellow Taxi"

03. "Rainy Night House"

04. "Woodstock"

Side 2:

05. "Cactus Tree"

06. "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire"

07. "Woman of Heart and Mind"

08. "A Case of You"

09. "Blue"

Side 3:

10. "Circle Game"

11. "People's Parties"

12. "All I Want"

13. "Real Good for Free"

14. "Both Sides Now"

Side 4:

15. "Carey"

16. "The Last Time I Saw Richard"

17. "Jericho"

18. "Love or Money"


"The Hissing of Summer Lawns":

Side 1:

01. "In France They Kiss on Mainstreet"

02. "The Jungle Line"

03. "Edith and the Kingpin"

04. "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow"

05. "Shades of Scarlet Conquering"

Side 2:

06. "The Hissing of Summer Lawns"

07. "The Boho Dance"

08. "Harry's House Centerpiece"

09. "Sweet Bird"

10. "Shadows and Light"



Side 1:

01. "Coyote"

02. "Amelia"

03. "Furry Sings the Blues"

04. "A Strange Boy"

05. "Hejira"

Side 2:

06. "Song for Sharon"

07. "Black Crow"

08. "Blue Motel Room"

09. "Refuge of the Roads"


"Don Juan's Reckless Daughter":

Side 1:

01. "Overture-Cotton Avenue"

02. "Talk to Me"

03. "Jericho"

Side 2:

04. "Paprika Plains"

Side 3:

05. "Otis and Marlena"

06. "The Tenth World"

07. "Dreamland"

Side 4:

08. "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter"

09. "Off Night Backstreet"

10. "The Silky Veils of Ardor"



Side 1:

01. "Happy Birthday 1975 (Rap)"

02. "God Must Be a Boogie Man"

03. "Funeral (Rap)"

04. "A Chair in the Sky"

05. "The Wolf that Lives in Lindsey"

Side 2:

06. "I's a Muggin' (Rap)"

07. "Sweet Sucker Dance"

08. "Coin in the Pocket (Rap)"

09. "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines"

10. "Lucky (Rap)"

11. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"


"Wild Things Run Fast":

Side 1:

01. "Chinese Cafe"

02. "Unchained Melody"

03. "Wild Things Run Fast"

04. "Ladies Man"

05. "Moon at the Window"

06. "Solid Love"

Side 2:

07. "Be Cool"

08. "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care"

09. "You Dream Flat Tires"

10. "Man to Man"

11. "Underneath the Streetlight"

12. "Love"


"Dog Eat Dog":

Side 1:

01. "Good Friends"

02. "Fiction"

03. "The Three Great Stimulants"

04. "Tax Free"

05. "Smokin' (Empty, Try Another)"

Side 2:

06. "Dog Eat Dog"

07. "Shiny Toys"

08. "Ethiopia"

09. "Impossible Dreamer"

10. "Lucky Girl"


"Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm":

Side 1:

01. "My Secret Place"

02. "Number One"

03. "Lakota"

04. "The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms)"

05. "Dancin' Clown"

Side 2:

06. "Cool Water"

07. "The Beat of Black Wings"

08. "Snakes and Ladders"

09. "The Reoccuring Dream"

10. "A Bird that Whistles"









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