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10 Surprising Facts About Joni Mitchell in Honor of Her Debut Grammys Performance

Joni Mitchell: In honor of the singer making her Grammys debut, here are 10 surprising facts about the musician, pictured here on stage in 2023. Credit - Gary Miller–Getty Images

The Grammys 2024 will attract top stars with the hopes of bringing home the music world’s biggest awards. Among them will be a musician taking to the Grammys stage for the first time in a decades-long career.

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, 80, who received a nomination for Best Folk Album for Joni Mitchell At Newport [Live], a recording of her surprise return to the stage at the Newport Folk Festival in 2022, will deliver her debut performance at the Grammys.

The nine-time Grammy winner will share the stage with Billie Eilish, Billy Joel, Burna Boy, Dua Lipa, Luke Combs, Olivia Rodrigo, SZA, Travis Scott, and U2. Comedian Trevor Noah will host.

As Mitchell graces the Grammys’ stage, here are 10 surprising facts about her.

Joni is not her birth name

The singer-songwriter was born Roberta Joan Anderson on Nov. 7, 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, according to her website. After the end of World War II, Mitchell’s family moved to the province of Saskatchewan, where she grew up.

She had polio as a child

Mitchell told Star in 1995 that she contracted polio as a nine-year-old and at the time of the interview was experiencing returning symptoms. Post-polio syndrome impacts between 25 and 40 out of every 100 polio survivors, starting around 15 to 40 years after the first infection, according to the CDC.

Mitchell first got paid to perform at a Canadian coffee house in 1962

The musician’s first paid performance was at The Louis Riel coffee house in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on Oct. 31, 1962. She is quoted as saying that she started making music that same year near Lake Waskesiu in Saskatchewan.

She reunited with a daughter she placed for adoption

Mitchell became pregnant by her college ex-boyfriend and gave birth to a daughter in 1965, she told Vogue. She quickly married folk singer Chuck Mitchell and soon after, has said she felt like she had no choice but to put her daughter up for adoption. The couple moved to the U.S. and later divorced. Mitchell and her daughter reunited in 1997.

Her song “Big Yellow Taxi” was inspired by Hawaii

Mitchell was inspired to write her environmental anthem “Big Yellow Taxi” by a trip to Hawaii. She reportedly told New Musical Express that she looked down from her hotel room balcony, amid picture-perfect palm trees, to see an “ugly, concrete car park on the hotel grounds.” The scene inspired the chorus: “Don't it always seem to go/That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone?/ They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Singing icon: Joni Mitchell is pictured here in 1969 during an appearance on<em> The Johnny Cash Show.</em><span class="copyright">ABC Photo Archives—Getty Images</span>
Singing icon: Joni Mitchell is pictured here in 1969 during an appearance on The Johnny Cash Show.ABC Photo Archives—Getty Images

She memorialized “Woodstock” in a song but didn’t attend

Mitchell wrote another hit “Woodstock,” inspired by the famous music festival held in the summer of 1969 in New York state. However, she didn’t actually attend the event.

She was scheduled to perform on Sunday that weekend, according to her website, but when her manager saw the traffic jams caused by the event broadcast on TV, he advised her not to go because she might have trouble getting back to New York City for an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show the following day.

Mitchell survived a brain aneurysm

The singer was found unconscious in her home in Los Angeles after suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015. At first, Mitchell couldn’t walk or talk, she told the Guardian. She also told CBS that she taught herself to play guitar again.

She has said she suffers from Morgellons disease

Mitchell has said in interviews that she suffers from Morgellons disease, a controversial and little-known condition in which sufferers describe itching or crawling sensations on the skin.

Some doctors define the condition as a delusion and prescribe psychiatry. Studies on the cause vary: A 2012 CDC study found no infectious agent, while a 2018 peer-reviewed investigation reported the condition is characterized by the “presence of multicolored filaments that lie under, are embedded in, or project from skin” and “results from a physiological response to the presence of an infectious agent.”

She didn’t perform a full-length concert for two decades

Mitchell didn’t perform a full-length concert from 2000 to 2022, when she appeared in a surprise performance at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island with singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who is expected to perform again with Mitchell at the Grammys. The last time Mitchell had performed at the festival was in 1969.

Mitchell has already received the Grammys highest honor

The celebrated singer has received a slew of awards during her career, including being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. And she already received the Grammys’ top honor in 2002—a lifetime achievement award for performers who during their lifetimes make creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.

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