Joni Mitchell’s artistry is truly timeless. Songs like “Woodstock” (1970), “Free Man in Paris” (1974), and “Help Me” (1974) have become much-loved classics. Her distinctive sound has resonated with audiences since the 1960s. Mitchell has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1997) and honored with 10 Grammys.
Mitchell’s admirers wonder about the state of her health and what she is doing professionally these days. Is she still recording or touring or has she retired? Here is the latest scoop on this beloved singer and songwriter.
Joni Mitchell Has Overcome Severe Health Issues In Her Later Life
Mitchell, who was born on November 7, 1943, has dealt with some major health problems in recent years such as Morgellons syndrome, which she was diagnosed with in 2009.
According to Mayo Clinic, the condition is characterized by itching, sores, or rashes and can be accompanied by depression and problems with concentration. Some medical experts have theorized that Morgellons, which is apparently not entirely understood, is more of a psychological illness marked by a delusional belief that fibers or parasites exist on or under a patient’s skin.
In 2010, Mitchell told The Los Angeles Times that she was beset by “[f]ibers in a variety of colors [that] protrude out of [her] skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral.”
She defined the condition this way: “Morgellons is a slow, unpredictable killer—a terrorist disease: it will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year.”
Mitchell added that she was at that time taking a step back from music to “battle” for those with Morgellons so that their illness, in her view, was not dismissed as psychological in origin.
Mitchell shared her feisty attitude toward her health issues when she spoke to The Star in 2013. She said then that she had been dealing with Morgellons for seven years.
“I don’t want to give up life,” she declared. “I’ll give death a real fight. I just want it to be a long way off.”
Maybe it was Mitchell’s fight with polio earlier in her life that gave her that never-give-up mindset. She contracted polio during the 1951 epidemic and recuperated in a hospital ward where the presence of kids in iron lungs to help them breathe more easily “terrified” her. Mitchell did recover, but emerged with a weak left arm and later on, muscular atrophy.
Mitchell’s Morgellons syndrome has had practical ramifications for her, making travel by plane out of the question, and according to Billboard, putting recording, singing, and performing out of reach for her, too.
She reportedly suffered a brain aneurysm in 2014. She was discovered unconscious at home on March 31. Billboard noted that she required a lengthy hospital stay. An unnamed source said Mitchell was in “very serious” condition. BBC News reported that Mitchell had a stroke as well.
There were conflicting reports about her progress in getting back to health. Her lawyer, Rebecca J. Thyne, said that Mitchell was speaking and was expected to recover fully (per the BBC).
On the other hand, musician David Crosby, who had dated Mitchell in the 1960s, told The Huffington Post that “she took a terrible hit” and was not yet able to talk.
From published reports, it did seem like Mitchell had a long road ahead of her. She was undergoing daily physical therapy. She told The Guardian in 2020, “I’m showing slow improvement but moving forward.”
Mitchell also confided that she had been unable to walk after the aneurysm, although her speech returned rather quickly.
Mitchell’s health situation sidelined her for quite a while. In fact, she was not seen in public until 2016, when she attended a Chick Corea concert on August 20 in Los Angeles. That first venture out was a big victory for her. A snap on Mitchell’s website was captioned, “We are thrilled to see Joni out and about again!”
Mitchell Has Continued To Work On Archival Projects
Mitchell has recorded so much brilliant music that bringing all of it together for her present-day fans and future collectors has become a passion of hers. She evidently cares greatly about these archival projects which will preserve her legacy both visually and aurally.
In September 2018, a documentary, Joni Mitchell Both Sides Now: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival was released on DVD and Blu-ray to showcase that memorable 1970 performance.
To mark Mitchell’s 75th birthday in November 2018, Rhino Records released a boxed set of eight LPs featuring 53 career-spanning songs that Mitchell herself curated. It was a limited edition of 5,000 copies. This was actually a reissue of her 2014 collection Love Has Many Faces that was making its debut on vinyl.
Rhino Records included Mitchell’s fourth studio album Blue (1971) in their “Start Your Ear Off Right” promotional campaign in January 2019. It was reissued as a 6,000-copy limited edition vinyl LP.
In October 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released Mitchell’s book Morning Glory on the Vine: Early Songs and Drawings. Mitchell created the volume in 1971 and gave it to some of her close friends.
It was not available to the public at the time. It contained poems, lyrics, and her own illustrations. The new edition had an introduction she penned for it recently.
She Created The Joni Mitchell Archives With Rhino Records
Rhino Records went a step further in their enshrinement of Mitchell’s greatest achievements. They issued an archival collection in October 2020 that celebrated the music she made at the start of her remarkable career, Joni Mitchell Archives — Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967).
It snagged a Grammy in 2022 for Best Historical Album. That was notable, but so was Mitchell’s appearance at the Grammy ceremony, one of her rare public jaunts since her aneurysm. She looked super stylish in a red leather beret, her silky blonde tresses cascading loosely down her shoulders.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Blue, Rhino Records brought out The Reprise Albums (1968-1971) in June 2021. It included the remastered Blue, plus three of Mitchell’s earlier albums. This was the second release in the Joni Mitchell Archives series.
Mitchell Had Her Music Removed From Spotify After Joe Rogan Promoted COVID Misinformation On The Streaming Service
Mitchell denounced what she considered to be COVID-19 misinformation in 2022 when she yanked her music off of Spotify. She objected to Joe Rogan using his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, to perpetuate allegedly untrue information about COVID-19 vaccines. Rogan’s podcast is hosted by the streaming platform.
Mitchell did not relent. She made her position on the matter clear in adamant language.
“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” Mitchell posted on her website. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”
Directly below her statement is a link to an open letter signed by scores of medical and scientific professionals protesting Spotify’s association with The Joe Rogan Experience, which they claimed “has a concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Another long-revered musician, Young, did the same thing by taking his tunes off Spotify because of his objection to Rogan’s COVID vaccine views. Young and Mitchell’s friendship goes back over 50 years.
Mitchell Returned To Public Performance In 2022
Mitchell beat the odds by coming back to the stage again after all her health crises. In April 2022, she was honored by the Recording Academy as the MusiCares Person of the Year at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas (per NPR). The ceremony took place two days prior to the Grammys.
Mitchell appeared to be deeply moved by all the heartfelt tributes she received that night from superstars like Meryl Streep, Cyndi Lauper, and Brandi Carlile.
The unforgettable highlight of the evening came when Carlile and Jon Batiste gathered all the evening’s performers onstage to sing two of Mitchell’s signature songs, “Big Yellow Taxi” and “The Circle Game.”
Mitchell ecstatically joined in, singing the famous line from “Taxi”: “Put up a parking lot.” The audience went wild.
That was just for starters. Mitchell performed at the Newport Folk Festival in July 2022. It had been 22 years since her last full-length concert and she did not disappoint.
She wowed the concertgoers with renditions of her own hits, plus the Gershwin classic, “Summertime.” She even played the electric guitar. Mitchell roared back in full force, and it was like she never left.
The event must have helped to stoke Mitchel’s desire to perform yet again. She and Brandi Carlile plan to team up for a couple of shows in June 2023 at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington state, according to Billboard.
Joni Mitchell has powered back from one health scare after another. Rather than leaving her depleted and enervated, her ordeals seem to have given her amazing strength.
Anyone who counted her down and out was very much mistaken. Mitchell is still every bit as vibrant as her glorious music, and we look forward to what she does next.