The Joni Mitchell generation: James Blake, Corinne Bailey Rae and others pay tribute

As she prepares to celebrate her 70th birthday, today's stars talk about how Joni Mitchell inspired their work

Few musicians are name-checked as an influence as often as Joni Mitchell. Long considered a legend, the Canadian singer-songwriter will be celebrating her 70th birthday this Thursday.

Legions of musicians from the generations that have followed her, including Ellie Goulding and Corinne Bailey Rae, have cited her influence. Other young talents, such as Laura Marling, brought up by parents with a deep love of Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, have drawn comparisons to the star – a benchmark of melody, lyricism and vocal prowess in folk-pop since the mid-Sixties.

Joni Mitchell's lilting, melismatic vocals soar softly over piano or the gentle strumming of acoustic guitar. Her deft lyrical skill saw her intimately examine personal relationships on her most famous album, Blue (1971), in songs such as the evocative “The Last Time I Saw Richard”; she could achieve a rare complex shifting of emotions in a single song.

Here we speak to some of those musicians who continue to take her inspiration into their own music, be it electro-pop, folk, jazz-inflected folk, or the soft, soulful vocals that merge with experimental glitchy electronica.

Corinne Bailey Rae

I was introduced to Blue by [the songwriter] Rod Bowett after he had heard a demo of my song “Like a Star”. “You will love this,” he said. Immediately I was enfolded into a world of subtle longings, of “travelling, travelling, travelling”, of confessional intimacy and feminine energy. I was struck by the conversational melodies, the death-defying leaps into high registers which shook the soul and sounded like birds. I couldn't believe the titles of her songs, so evocative of memories, especially “The Last Time I Saw Richard”. These titles felt like permission to write about anything and anyone. Nothing was too romantic or too prosaic. Her songs have also defined particular places for me. In fact Laurel Canyon, where I am currently living while recording my new album has, through “California”, become a metaphor for shaking the dust off your feet and trying something new; for not being afraid to fail, and believing one can take flight.

Rufus Wainwright

Be it her music, her lyrics or her stunning personality ... the experience I had last June at Toronto's Luminato Festival of encountering all three of these elements together at the same time, live and in person, changed my life and the lives of everyone around me. She is a legend, and as with all legendary treasures – books, paintings, performers and so on – one is willingly transformed and brought to a better place when placed in their creative path.

James Blake

Until writing my first album I'd only listened to Blue, and after the album was made I progressed in a reverse chronology to Clouds and Song to a Seagull. As embarrassing as it is to admit how little of her discography I actually have, I like the idea that I'll enjoy Joni's work over my lifetime, as though slowly peeling back the drape to uncover the larger picture. Meeting her assured me that the process will never be dull. She has a biting irony and we spent a lot of the evening laughing. Experiencing this side of her made me rethink some lyrics from Clouds and Blue. With her advice still fresh in my mind, on the plane home I wrote my second album, Overgrown.

Joni's music always reminds me that melody is flexible, and that if you want to reinvent yourself as she continually has, you should command it to bend and ebb and flow, and treat it as king. She is a great remedy to melodic block.

Katie Melua

The first song by Joni Mitchell that I heard was “Marcie”. I remember being struck by how she had used the colours, and how she was able to tell a story and convey so much in just a few minutes. As an artist, she is intoxicating. Lyrically, she is dynamite.

I witnessed a friend going through a tumultuous love affair. He would listen to “A Case of You” (the orchestral version) and I saw how that song saved him. As a songwriter, that is something to aspire to – to be able to tell a story that might seem so personal to the writer yet can be shared by, and so deeply affect, the listener.

Jonathan Wilson

I'd say that what has consistently inspired me most about Joni is her relationship with jazz. I'm a massive jazz fan myself so it makes me so happy that despite the impending critical peril, she “went there”. The records she made with Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter are just stunning to me, such a forward-thinking musical twist and a satisfying musical development in her career. These may be my favourite of all of her albums.

Where I obviously still love the chanteuse-with-acoustic-guitar, that side of Joni being perhaps the most instantly jaw-dropping, her voice mixed with Jaco's bass work, for example, is something I just love listening to. Her melodic and rhythmic prowess has always been essentially jazz to my ears, so adventurous and free.

Marika Hackman

I grew up with her music – my Mum was a massive fan so it will always have an effect on me. I don't know exactly what it is, but she'll always come through in my music and it's hard to ignore her incredible musicianship. She's been one of the leading female musicians of the past 50 years and she's still so fresh. She has a unique sound and in that way she is really brave, she's not afraid to push boundaries. That's something we are seeing more of now; musicians who aren't afraid of change. Her albums influence me in different ways. I love Ladies of the Canyon. It sounds really naive and fresh. I also love The Hissing of Summer Lawns because it's really jazzy – almost Latin-American – and so different. Obviously Blue is incredible: so raw and heartfelt, and that strikes me as something I'd love to convey through my own music.

Gabrielle Aplin

Along with Leonard Cohen, Joni is one of the first artists I really listened to and took inspiration from. What I love about her is that she takes all the things I love – poetry, art, music – and she combines them as a means of conveying her message. Her use of other media is really original and it's something that I aim to do myself. I think her diverse use of media is echoed in her lyrics, and what's important about her is that, rising to fame during the Sixties folk revival, she didn't simply focus her music on herself or on the boy she fancied – she made her music universally relevant, which makes it very real, timeless and inherently honest. That's something I try to put into my music. She is also very experimental; she puts her own stamp on her music, like in the organic sounds of Ladies of the Canyon. But I also think she is very careful with her music – it sounds incredibly thought out. For example, in “A Case of You”, my favourite song of all time, she makes something incredibly beautiful out of something sad, just through the way she chooses to tune her guitar. I feel like she wants it to be perfect and it is perfect.

Elizabeth McGovern

It's no wonder Joni Mitchell found herself on “a lonely road, travelling, travelling, travelling”. As a songwriter, she has always been in a league of her own. There is no one else. To say I reference her unconsciously in every song I write is to flatter myself dangerously. But she's in every pore of my being. Blue, Court and Spark, and Miles of Aisles, were only a few of the LPs I wore smooth from constant playing. To think of her again is to go back to a great era in music, when people looked to find words of interest in songs; words that meant something; that they had to think about. People now accept so much in their music that is, by comparison, either repetitive cliché, or totally meaningless claptrap.

Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Reach for the sky: there are around 250 new buildings of 20-plus storeys planned for London alone, some 80 per cent of them residential
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
filmReview: The ingenious film will intrigue, puzzle and trouble audiences by turns
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower