50 of the Best Joni Mitchell Covers
From the beginning of her career, Joni Mitchell has been an inspiration, influence and incomparable source of creativity for other artists.
"She is arguably the best singer-songwriter of our times," David Crosby, who produced Mitchell's 1968 debut album, told Howard Stern in 2021; "Joni's music should be taught in school," Prince, a devoted fan of Mitchell's, once said.
It is no small feat to cover a song of Mitchell's, onstage or in the studio — she's famous for her nimble voice and complicated guitar tunings. But for those who have grown up on Mitchell's music, or even helped her make it, the challenge is worth it.
1. Bryan Adams and Wynona Judd, "Raised on Robbery"
On April 16, 2000, an epic 90-minute tribute concert dedicated to Mitchell was broadcast on TNT, featuring legends like Elton John, Cyndi Lauper, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall and more. That evening, Mitchell's fellow Canadian Bryan Adams joined Wynonna Judd for a performance of "Raised on Robbery."
2. America, "Woodstock"
Mitchell's 1970 classic "Woodstock" is one of the best-known songs written about the legendary music festival. The most popular version is by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, but many artists have recorded it over the years. In 2011, America released an album of covers titled Back Pages that included "Woodstock." "There were lines that were not in the CSNY version, and we wanted to make sure we used those that were in Joni's version," group member Gerry Beckley told Goldmine in 2012.
3. Harry Belafonte, "The Circle Game"
From: Ladies of the Canyon (1970)
Harry Belafonte included a cover of Mitchell's "The Circle Game" on his 1971 album, The Warm Touch. Three years earlier, he performed "Both Sides, Now" for a TV special, and in 1969 he performed "Night in the City" on a program that also featured Julie Andrews singing Mitchell's "Michael From Mountains."
4. The Byrds, "For Free"
The Byrds were one of many artists who were among Mitchell's Laurel Canyon neighbors. In 1973, they covered Mitchell's "For Free," with David Crosby on lead vocals, for their final album. "It was unique that so many musicians lived so close together, let alone so many musicians who became successful," Byrds co-founder Chris Hillman told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2020. "It was really a place and time that could never happen again. It was just fortuitous and serendipitous."
5. Lindsey Buckingham, "Big Yellow Taxi"
"When I tell people my greatest influences I say Joni Mitchell for phrasing," Stevie Nicks told Forbes in 2020. "She could fit 50 words in a sentence and have them sound glorious without being rushed or crushed in." Nicks wasn't the only member of Fleetwood Mac to be touched by Mitchell's music: In 2000, Lindsey Buckingham recorded a cover of "Big Yellow Taxi" that was never officially released.
6. Cher, "Big Yellow Taxi"
Cher and Mitchell's paths often crossed in the early '70s when Cher was dating one of Mitchell's close friends, David Geffen. "We were friends while she was recording [Court and Spark], and she would play ruffs [sic] bout three-ish a.m. after [coming] home," Cher tweeted in 2010. Before that, Cher recorded a version of "Big Yellow Taxi." An animated short film was made and broadcast on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in 1971.
7. Judy Collins, "Both Sides, Now"
Before Mitchell recorded "Both Sides, Now," she sang it to Judy Collins over the phone. "It was the middle of the night when she called," Collins recalled to Vulture in 2022. "I was probably drunk. I was definitely passed out. I woke up to the phone ringing, and when I heard her sing it, I just thought, This is it." Collins had a hit with her cover, which made the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
8. Elvis Costello, "Edith and the Kingpin"
When Elvis Costello was 17 in 1972, he skipped school with a friend to take the train from Liverpool to Manchester so he could secure tickets to one of Mitchell's concerts. "That concert was remarkable for the indelible impression created by the revealing songs from her then latest album, Blue," Costello recalled to Vanity Fair in 2004. "The show ran so long that four of us had to pool the very last of our money to pay for the unimaginable extravagance of a taxi back to Liverpool after we stayed for the encore and missed the last train home." In 2007, Costello covered "Edith and the Kingpin" for A Tribute to Joni Mitchell.
9. David Crosby, "Amelia"
David Crosby covered his former girlfriend Mitchell's songs many times before his 2023 death. On his 1993 album, Thousand Roads, he included a song he'd co-written with Mitchell, "Yvette in English," which would also appear on her 1994 album, Turbulent Indigo. In 2017, Crosby covered "Amelia" on Sky Trails, "Woodstock" on 2018's Here If You Listen and "For Free" on his 2021 album of the same name.
10. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "Woodstock"
The most famous cover of "Woodstock" arrived roughly a month before Mitchell's version in 1970. Before that, Stephen Stills had jammed on the song with Jimi Hendrix (plus Buddy Miles and Duane Hitchings) on a recording that wouldn't be released until 2018. Stills then brought the song to his group, which put together a hard-rocking rendition that found its place on Deja Vu and became a Top 15 hit.
11. Tim Curry, "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire"
Actor Tim Curry, famous for his role as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in 1975's The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released his debut album in 1978, Read My Lips, which included a cover of Mitchell's "All I Want." A year later, he included another Mitchell cover, "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire," on his second LP, Fearless.
12. John Denver, "Marcie"
Before he hit the big time as a solo artist, John Denver was a member of the Chad Mitchell Trio, who occasionally performed "Both Sides, Now" in the mid to late '60s. Once he launched his solo career, Denver performed "Marcie" - a song from Mitchell's debut album - onstage.
13. Neil Diamond, "Chelsea Morning"
Neil Diamond has recorded several Mitchell songs throughout his career. His 1969 album Touching You, Touching Me included "Both Sides, Now," followed by "Chelsea Morning" on 1971's Stones and "Free Man in Paris" on 1977's I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight.
14. Bob Dylan, "Big Yellow Taxi"
Two of the era's leading artists, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan have been endlessly compared. Dylan, according to Mitchell, once noted that she wasn't like other female artists. "She's not really a woman, Joni's kind of like a man," she recalled Dylan saying. Clumsy as the comment is, Dylan kept tabs on Mitchell throughout her career. In 1973, Dylan's self-titled album (released by his record company with no input from Dylan), included a cover of Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" with some slight lyrical changes.
15. Cass Elliot, "Sistowbell Lane"
After the breakup of the Mamas & the Papas in 1968, Cass Elliot continued with a solo career. At some point, she recorded a version of Mitchell's "Sistowbell Lane," which never landed on any of her studio albums but did resurface on 2005's The Complete Cass Elliot Solo Collection 1968-71. Elliot performed "I Had a King" live on NBC in 1968.
16. Fairport Convention, "I Don't Know Where I Stand"
Fairport Convention covered two Mitchell songs on their self-titled debut in 1968: "I Don't Know Where I Stand" and "Chelsea Morning." "Even at that very early point, she was already formed as an artist," Fairport guitarist Richard Thompson told Tidal in 2021. "We recognized that she had already joined the pantheon of great writers we were hearing at the time, like Dylan and Leonard Cohen. We were getting ahold of Joni's acetates from her publisher and we thought, 'This is someone who will become better known but right now we can cover her songs and still seem hip and obscure!'"
17. Roberta Flack, "Midnight Cowboy"
Mitchell wrote "Midnight Cowboy" for the 1969 film of the same name, but it was never used. Mitchell's demo eventually came out in 2021 as part of the second volume of her ongoing archives series. Roberta Flack's version of the song also appeared for the first time in 2021, on the 50th anniversary expanded edition of her 1970 album, Chapter Two.
18. Gov't Mule, "Woodstock"
"I've always had an open mind," Gov't Mule guitarist Warren Haynes told The Rockpit in 2014, noting that he's a "big fan" of Mitchell's. "I think the more music you listen to, the more likely that you will find your own voice." In 2010, Gov't Mule offered a blistering rendition of "Woodstock" at Mountain Jam.
19. Green Day, "Big Yellow Taxi"
Green Day has covered an array of rock musicians over the years, and Mitchell has been no exception. The band performed a punk version of Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" onstage nearly 20 times from 1993-2000.
20. Herbie Hancock and Leonard Cohen, "The Jungle Line"
Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock first collaborated with Mitchell on her 1979 album, Mingus. It was the start of a decades-long friendship. In 2007, Hancock released an album of Mitchell covers titled River: The Joni Letters, inviting a variety of guests to join him. Leonard Cohen, another longtime friend of Mitchell's, appeared on the album's closing track, "The Jungle Line." The LP won a Grammy for Album of the Year.
21. Emmylou Harris, "The Magdalene Laundries"
Emmylou Harris' contribution to A Tribute to Joni Mitchell was a cover of "The Magdalene Laundries," a poignant song about a young nun trapped in one of Ireland's asylums. Harris also covered "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" in 2018 at Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration Live. "Joni is an inspiration for every girl who ever wanted to pick up a guitar," she said at the time [via Billboard].
22. Heart, "River"
"Joni Mitchell is the one who influenced me the most," Heart singer Ann Wilson told American Songwriter in 2022. "She's just such a consummate musician and poet." In 1995, Heart released a live album, The Road Home, which featured a cover of Mitchell's "River." "She's a one-of-a-kind, a complete original," sister Nancy Wilson said of Mitchell in 2018.
23. Hole, "Both Sides, Now"
Hole's debut album, Pretty on the Inside, ends with a song titled "Clouds," a cover of Mitchell's "Both Sides, Now," with some additional lyrics written by Courtney Love. "Angel dust gets in your eyes, your hair / On acid stars, you're getting there," she sings. "My body's assembled into a gift to you when you die / I've looked at life that way."
24. Ian and Sylvia, "The Circle Game"
Ian and Sylvia, stalwarts of the Canadian folk music scene, were among the first to cover Mitchell's "The Circle Game," including it on their 1967 album So Much for Dreaming.
25. Janet Jackson, "The Beat of Black Wings"
Janet Jackson's cover of "The Beat of Black Wings" was never officially released on an album, though it was recorded during sessions for Jackson's 1997 LP, The Velvet Rope. The LP did, however, include the hit song "Got Til It's Gone," which sampled Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi."
26. Elton John, "Free Man in Paris"
Elton John also made an appearance at the 2000 tribute show to Mitchell, performing "Free Man in Paris" from Court and Spark. In 2022, Mitchell sat down for a rare interview with John on his Rocket Hour show, not long after she made a surprise appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. "One day, I want you to sit in this room like we're doing now, but with some recording equipment," John said at the time [via Rolling Stone]. "And I really want you to consider making a record, maybe new songs, the way you are going, you are tearing up the world at the moment."
27. Chaka Kahn, "Ladies Man"
In 1977, 24-year-old Chaka Kahn appeared as a backing singer on Mitchell's Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. Decades later, Kahn included a cover of Mitchell's "Ladies Man" on her 2007 album, Funk This. "When I'm on the bus, I always put on Joni Mitchell," Kahn told The New York Times in 2019. "She would revive me, in a big way — the music, the things she said, the philosopher in her. She's my favorite writer, singer-songwriter."
28. Cyndi Lauper, "Carey"
Cyndi Lauper performed "Carey" at the 2000 tribute concert to Mitchell. (Lauper has also performed Mitchell's "The Magdalene Laundries.") "Joni Mitchell became like a beacon of light," Lauper said in a 2018 Instagram post. "She's a woman who wrote her own material, who sang it. She made her own clothes, and that appealed to me because you know Italians, we’re always sewing."
29. Led Zeppelin, "Woodstock"
Led Zeppelin were big Joni Mitchell fans. "That's the music that I play at home all the time - Joni Mitchell," Jimmy Page told Rolling Stone in 1975. "The main thing with Joni is that she's able to look at something that's happened to her, draw back and crystalize the whole situation, then write about it. She brings tears to my eyes. What more can I say? It's bloody eerie." Led Zeppelin occasionally covered "Woodstock" in concert in the '70s.
30. Annie Lennox, "Ladies of the Canyon"
In 2007, an album titled A Tribute to Joni Mitchell came out that included a range of guests. Annie Lennox's selection was the title track to Mitchell's third album, Ladies of the Canyon. In 2023, the Eurythmics singer described Mitchell's music as a "blueprint" for hers. "If I hadn't heard her music," Lennox explained to AARP, "I don't think I would have become a singer-songwriter."
31. Manfred Mann's Earth Band, "Banquet"
On their 1986 album Criminal Tango, Manfred Mann's Earth Band included Mitchell's "Banquet," originally found on her 1972 album, For the Roses. (The Mann album also featured covers of songs by the Beatles and the Jam.) The group also incorporated a bit of "Big Yellow Taxi" into its song "Lies (Through the '80s)."
32. Roger McGuinn, "Dreamland"
Mitchell was supposed to join Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue for only one night, but she wound up staying on board for several shows. Not long after that, one of the Revue's other performers, Roger McGuinn, covered Mitchell's then-unreleased "Dreamland" for his 1976 album, Cardiff Rose. Mitchell's version finally appeared on 1977's Don Juan's Reckless Daughter.)
33. George Michael, "Edith and the Kingpin"
In 2005, George Michael released a single titled "John and Elvis Are Dead"; on the B-side was a smooth cover of Mitchell's "Edith and the Kingpin" that had been recorded the previous year at Abbey Road studios.
34. Nazareth, "This Flight Tonight"
The difference between Mitchell's original "This Flight Tonight" and the version Nazareth recorded for their 1973 album, Loud 'n' Proud, couldn't be greater. "We used to listen to Joni as we were traveling round in the van," Nazareth bassist Pete Agnew told The Independent, recalling that Mitchell paid them the ultimate compliment when she once introduced "This Flight Tonight" at one of her concerts by saying, "'I'd like to open with a Nazareth song." Nazareth's robust rendition made it to No. 11 on the U.K. chart.
35. Willie Nelson, "Both Sides, Now"
Mitchell and Willie Nelson go back a long way. In 1970, Nelson included a cover of "Both Sides, Now" on his 10th album, which he titled after the Mitchell classic. A decade and a half later, Mitchell performed at the first annual Farm Aid benefit concert, which Nelson had a big part in organizing. A couple of years after that, Nelson sang a duet with Mitchell, "Cool Water," on her 1988 album, Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm.
36. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, "Both Sides, Now"
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's 1972 album Will the Circle Be Unbroken features appearances by several country and bluegrass musicians like Maybelle Carter and Doc Watson. Guitarist Randy Scruggs joined the band for Mitchell's "Both Sides, Now."
37. Dolly Parton, "The Circle Game"
Dolly Parton hosted a musical TV show, simply titled Dolly, in the latter part of the '70s. On a 1977 episode, Parton performed Mitchell's "The Circle Game," giving it her distinctive style. In 2005, Parton included "Both Sides, Now" on an album of covers, singing the song with Judy Collins and Rhonda Vincent. Mitchell was reportedly slated to sing on the track as well, but a family emergency occurred.
38. Phish, "Free Man in Paris"
Phish is famous for interpreting the work of other artists. In 2010, they tried their hand at Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris." That same year, Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, speaking to jambands.com, named Blue as "an example of one of the greatest albums ever written ... because it's so personal and so simple and so direct. It’s just direct emotion and it’s a really hard thing to reveal yourself in that kind of a personal way."
39. Cat Power, "Blue"
In 2008, Cat Power released her second album of covers, Jukebox, which featured the title track to Blue as the closing track. "I actually ended up stealing that record by accident when my dad kicked me out," Cat Power mastermind Chan Marshall later recalled to The Quietus in 2018. "I was 17, on my own, and had to quit high school so I could work. I was working full time to survive. ... I played that album probably 258 times that year."
40. Prince, "A Case of You"
Prince was a lifelong fan of Mitchell's, frequently citing her as an influence and even regularly sending her letters of admiration. "She taught me a lot about color and sound, and to her, I'm very grateful," Prince told MTV in 1985. He included a full cover of Mitchell's "A Case of You" on his 2002 album, One Nite Alone ... ; in 2018, a shortened version appeared on Piano and a Microphone 1983.
41. Bonnie Raitt, "The Song About the Midway"
Bonnie Raitt's fourth album, 1974's Streetlights, was full of covers, including a soothing rendition of "The Song About the Midway." (Before that, Raitt also covered Mitchell's "Woodstock," putting a bluesy spin on the classic.) In 2022, speaking at the 64th Grammy Awards, Raitt described Mitchell as "one of my great heroes."
42. Linda Ronstadt, "River"
"Linda Ronstadt was always kind to me," Mitchell told People in 1985. "She makes friendships with women easily." Ronstadt recorded "River" for her 2000 holiday album, A Merry Little Christmas.
43. Billy Squier, "River"
One of Mitchell's most poignant tracks has been covered extensively over the years. Billy Squier included a cover of "River" on his ninth album, Happy Blue. "While working through a traumatic breakup of my own, I found myself attempting to tackle Joni's song 'from the other side' of the relationship, while juxtaposing sentiments and observations from my own experience," Squier explained in a 2021 Instagram post. "A bit of a mash-up but similar clash of emotions. Everybody cries sometimes."
44. Buffy Sainte-Marie, "Song to a Seagull"
Before Mitchell broke into the wider cultural consciousness, other musicians, like Buffy Sainte-Marie, brought her music to the forefront. "Buffy really helped me at the beginning," Mitchell wrote in the foreword to 2018's Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography. "She played my tape for anyone who would listen." A year before Mitchell even released her debut album, Sainte-Marie included two covers, "Song to a Seagull" and "The Circle Game," on her 1967 album, Fire & Fleet & Candlelight. She also covered "For Free" on 1973's Quiet Places.
45. Steely Dan, "Carey"
It's not clear when Steely Dan recorded a cover of Blue's "Carey," and it's never been released other than in an online version that appeared in 2022. Guitarist Larry Carlton was the link between Mitchell and Steely Dan: Carlton played on five of Mitchell's albums from the '70s and into the '80s while performing on four Steely Dan albums during the same period.
46. Barbra Streisand, "I Don't Know Where I Stand"
Barbra Streisand has interpreted the music of many songwriters. In 1971, she included a rendition of Mitchell's "I Don't Know Where I Stand" on her 12th album, Stoney End, which also featured covers of songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Laura Nyro and Harry Nilsson. Two years after recording the track, Streisand performed the song at the request of David Geffen at an ACLU benefit concert. "I love your music and I also love the way you sing," she said from the stage when she realized Mitchell was in the audience.
47. The Supremes, "All I Want"
The Supremes released one album produced and primarily written by a non-Motown artist: 1972's The Supremes Produced and Arranged by Jimmy Webb. The Diana Ross-free LP included a couple of covers, like Harry Nilsson's "Paradise" and Mitchell's "All I Want."
48. James Taylor, "River"
James Taylor, a former boyfriend of Mitchell's, appeared on four of her albums over the years, playing guitar or providing backing vocals. (Mitchell returned the favor on a few occasions, too.) For his 2006 holiday album, At Christmas, Taylor recorded "River." "She is totally real and self-invented," Taylor told The Guardian in 2021. "And it's one of the best things in my life that I've known her."
49. Three Dog Night, "Night in the City"
Three Dog Night's Danny Hutton moved to Laurel Canyon in the '60s and found himself in good company. "Stephen [Stills] and Neil [Young] were neighbors, and Neil would come over and play stuff for me, that's when they were doing Buffalo Springfield," he recalled to Concert Guide Live in 2016. "I kind of knew David Crosby, he was a little bit crazy. Roger McGuinn, Mark Volman [of the Turtles] lived up the street; Joni Mitchell was down the street with Graham [Nash], Micky Dolenz lived next door, so it was quite a vibe." Three Dog Night included a cover of Mitchell's "Night in the City" on their seventh album, 1971's Harmony.
50. Neil Young, "Raised on Robbery"
Mitchell's friendship with Neil Young dates back to the Toronto coffeehouses of the mid-'60s, where they both used to perform. Young played harmonica on Mitchell's "Furry Sings the Blues," which appeared on 1974's Hejira. Not long after that, Mitchell joined Young when he recorded a cover of her song "Raised on Robbery" with the Santa Monica Flyers during sessions for his 1975 album, Tonight's the Night.