3 Joni Mitchell Songs that Will Make Any Listener Tear Up

Born on November 7, 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, the 80-year-old Joni Mitchell is experiencing a creative resurgence of late. The icon suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015 and took several years off from the public eye. But more recently, thanks in part to her close friendship with Brandi Carlile, she has been performing a bit more regularly of late. And fans love to see it.

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But beyond her career these days, Mitchell is considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time. She just has it. And one of the reasons she does is for her emotive touch in her work. That combined with her expert lyricism, and fans are treated to stirring music whenever her’s are on the airwaves. Here below, we wanted to dive into three songs from Mitchell that summon up deep emotions and that, yes, will even bring a tear to your eye.

[RELATED: Dissecting Joni Mitchell’s Curious Description of Her Writing Style]

“Carey” from Blue (1971)

From Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue, this song was inspired by Mitchell’s relationship with Cary Raditz, who lived with a cave-dwelling hippie commune in Greece. While the rhythms are brighter and more bubbly that some might expect for a song that can get the ducts welling, this song of friendship and distance is something that, when you consider it, can make someone feel sorrow. Life is hard and maintaining one’s poise takes effort. This song points to that difficult balance. On it, Mitchell sings,

The wind is in from Africa
Last night I couldn’t sleep
Oh, you know it sure is hard to leave here, Carey
But it’s really not my home
My fingernails are filthy
I got beach tar on my feet
And I miss my clean white linen
And my fancy French cologne

Oh Carey, get out your cane (Carey, get out your cane)
And I’ll put on some silver (I’ll put on some silver)
Oh, you’re a mean old Daddy
But I like you fine

“Both Sides Now” from Clouds (1969)

A more traditionally soul-shaking song, “Both Sides Now,” which is one of Mitchell’s best-known tracks, comes from the 1969 album Clouds. With a delicate, lilting voice, Mitchell sings over a strummed acoustic and, in so doing, she seems to pull your heart from your chest only to pet it like a bird. On the song, which was inspired by a passage in the 1959 novel Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow, Mitchell sings of love, offering,

But now it’s just another show
And you leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions that I recall
I really don’t know love
I really don’t know love at all

“All I Want” from Blue (1971)

Another from the 1971 album Blue, this love song is about the balance between self and selflessness. It was written after the artist broke up with Graham Nash and during her short-lived relationship with James Taylor. Her heart was between two or perhaps even three worlds. And this track is the mournful echo of that time. For anyone who has felt similar feelings of in between, it can recall a poignant sadness and, as a result, hearing the song can even be cathartic for that reason. On it, Mitchell sings,

I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Traveling, traveling, traveling
Looking for something, what can it be?
Oh, I hate you some, I hate you some, I love you some
Oh, I love you when I forget about me
I wanna be strong, I wanna laugh along
I wanna belong to the living
Alive, alive, I want to get up and jive
I want to wreck my stockings in some jukebox dive
Do you want, do you want, do you wanna dance with me, baby?
Do you wanna take a chance
On maybe finding some sweet romance with me, baby?
Well, come on

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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