Song Lyrics


by Joni Mitchell

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Oh let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on Wall Street and Vegas
Place your bets
Shine on the fishermen
With nothing in their nets
Shine on rising oceans and evaporating seas
Shine on our Frankenstein technologies
Shine on science
With its tunnel vision
Shine on fertile farmland
Buried under subdivisions

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on the dazzling darkness
That restores us in deep sleep
Shine on what we throw away
And what we keep

Shine on Reverend Pearson
Who threw away
The vain old God
kept Dickens and Rembrandt and Beethoven
And fresh plowed sod
Shine on good earth, good air, good water
And a safe place
For kids to play
Shine on bombs exploding
Half a mile away

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on world-wide traffic jams
Honking day and night
Shine on another asshole
Passing on the right!
Shine on the red light runners
Busy talking on their cell phones
Shine on the Catholic Church
And the prisons that it owns
Shine on all the Churches
They all love less and less
Shine on a hopeful girl
In a dreamy dress

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on good humor
Shine on good will
Shine on lousy leadership
Licensed to kill
Shine on dying soldiers
In patriotic pain
Shine on mass destruction
In some God's name!
Shine on the pioneers
Those seekers of mental health
Craving simplicity
They traveled inward
Past themselves...
May all their little lights shine

© 2007; Crazy Crow Music


As told to Dan Ouellette:

These lyrics were born over a period of time, and the song could have been fourteen minutes long instead of seven. In a sense, "Shine" is reminiscent of that old Sunday School song about letting your light shine. I heard the words of the chorus first, but I didn't know what the song was going to be about.

When I recorded it, I was sick so a doctor prescribed some penicillin, which I had an allergic reaction to. I was delirious, stressed out, and we worked all night long. I was so delirious that I was playing way back on the beat. The tone of it reminds me of the Blue album. I was also very sick when I recorded that.

When I was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in Toronto in January 2007, I had demos of the Shine songs with me and played them to some friends at a party afterward. James Taylor told me that he had to play on this song. I wasn't sure if anyone could because it was created in such a rare spirit. But James came in anyway and I asked him to play short figures like a saxophone. So you can hear fractions of James' guitar playing here.

Shine has been recorded by 3 other artists


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Fercinha on

This may be one of Joni's masterpieces. Lucky for us, there are so many of those.

calderoy on

This songs makes me think of Ann Druyan meditating for one hour thinking about all the good and the bad in this world, while being recorded for the Voyager 1's "Sounds from Planet Earth" golden record. Her voice, as i heard in an interview, reminds me so much of Joni. I am currently writing a play about her.