Today is Joni Mitchell’s 70th birthday, and although the prolific singer-songwriter has not released an album of new material in six years, it’s impossible not to recognize her indelible contributions to music in her decades-long career. At times an accomplished poet who identified with nuance the emotional inner workings of romance, and at other times a generation-defining figure who broke free of the trappings of a female folk singer, Mitchell’s oeuvre is a ripe with honest reflections on the human experience. In celebration of her large body of work, here’s a ranked list of Mitchell’s 30 greatest songs.
30. “In France They Kiss on Main Street” (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
On her seventh studio album, Mitchell fully embraced a jazz-rock sound, and this fully formed opening track kicked off a new experimental phase for the singer-songwriter (and features backing vocals from her folk-rock contemporaries, James Taylor, David Crosby, and Graham Nash).
29. “Raised on Robbery” (Court and Spark)
A groovy number from her most successful album finds Mitchell offering a toe-tapping, at times hilarious ballad.
28. “Furry Sings the Blues” (Hejira)
This charming little song is about a meeting with jazz musician Furry Lewis, who later expressed his anger about the way Mitchell depicted him against his wishes.
27. “Chinese Cafe / Unchained Melody” (Wild Things Run Fast)
The opening track from her 11th album saw Mitchell ditching her jazz stylings for a more pop-focused sound (inspired by the work of Steely Dan and Talking Heads), without abandoning the self-reflective lyrics of her earliest songs.
26. “Woman of Heart and Mind” (For the Roses)
Like most songs from Mitchell’s early records, this track concerns a failing / failed relationship with a man for whom she clearly cares but ultimately comes to resent.