They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Joni Mitchell turns 68 today and, in terms of influence, her star burns as bright as ever. As folk stages its umpteenth popular revival, a whole new generation of folkies, freak-folkies, neofolkies, and indie folkies have taken lessons from decades of her simple, heart-wrenching songs. Dozen of hip, Pitchfork-approved artists namecheck Mitchell in interviews and display an obvious debt in their songs. On Joni’s birthday, we pay tribute to her through some of their tributes.
Sufjan Stevens – Free Man in Paris (Joni Mitchell cover)
The benchmark for Joni Mitchell cover albums is 2007’s simply-titled A Tribute to Joni Mitchell. One of the younger artists on a disc full of old-timers, Sufjan Stevens brings a lush horn sound to one of Mitchell’s classic songs. Like many of the younger artists, he finds a natural way to fit Mitchell’s lyrics right into his template.
Okkervil River – The Blonde in the Bleachers (Joni Mitchell cover)
Okkervil River adopt a simpler, acoustic-based approach on their Golden Opportunities covers album. Will Sheff’s arresting voice gives the mellow approach directness and immediacy, two traits that Joni would surely appreciate.
Austra – Woodstock (Joni Mitchell cover)
The most recent cover of the bunch, Austra’s “Woodstock” dropped just last May. The song best known for Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s folk-rock version turns into a synthetic electronic lament. A totally different sound that still honors Mitchell’s meaning beautifully.
Allison Crowe – A Case of You (Joni Mitchell cover)
If you like your Joni Mitchell simple and basic, Allison Crowe’s lilting piano “A Case of You” is for you. It takes the same approach James Blake’s recent cover does, stripping any distractions away to display a beautiful voice wrapping around that memorably melody.
RDM ft. Aquila Rose & Idana Valdes – Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell cover)
Another horn-fueled genre crossover comes from Central America and Rhythms Del Mundo. Cuban salsa singers Aquila Rose and Idana Valdes deliver this Spanish-language cover of the song Bob Dylan famously desecrated on the critically-derided Dylan.
Check out more Joni Mitchell covers in the archive.