Joni Mitchell is slated to perform at the Grammys for the first time, despite Mitchell’s health issues in recent years.
Her music career has spanned decades, and she turned 80 years old in November, but she’s still checking new items off of her bucket list and continuing to play for crowds of fans in 2024.
The legendary songwriter did take break from performing in public for a several years and has been seen recently using a cane as she walks. Here’s what we know about Joni Mitchell’s health history.
How is Joni Mitchell today?
Health wise, Mitchell is doing well enough that she’ll be able to play for a packed Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, the location of the 2024 Grammys on Feb. 4. It’s her first time performing at the event.
Her health issues also haven’t prevented her from putting out new music. In fact, she’ll be attending the Grammys as a nominee for best folk album thanks to her record “Joni Mitchell at Newport (Live).” She’s previously won nine times.
The “Big Yellow Taxi” singer must also be optimistic that she’ll continue to feel good, as she’s planning to headline the Hollywood Bowl concert in Los Angeles this October.
These performances continue a trend that Mitchell kicked off in July 2022, when she played in public for the first time since her 2015 brain aneurysm. The surprise show at the Newport Folk Festival was also her first full set in 20 years, TODAY.com reported at the time.
The following year, Mitchell performed a few times, including the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize concert in March 2023, a Joni Jam concert in Washington in June 2023, and a Brandi Carlile and Friends show at the Hollywood Bowl in October 2023.
Variety also reported that while she was recovering from her aneurysm, she hosted informal gatherings of musicians at her home, the origin of the “Joni Jam” name.
Joni Mitchell’s health
Mitchell hasn’t shared a formal update on her health in a few years, but she has spoken in the past about her health issues.
Joni Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015
In June 2015, Mitchell’s conservator Leslie Morris posted a statement about her brain aneurysm on the singer’s official website.
“Joni did in fact suffer an aneurysm. However, details that have emerged in the past few days are mostly speculative. The truth is that Joni is speaking, and she’s speaking well,” the statement read. “She is not walking yet, but she will be in the near future as she is undergoing daily therapies.”
Morris went on to say that Mitchell was “resting comfortably in her own home” and “getting better each day.”
“A full recovery is expected,” Morris added.
While talking with The Guardian in 2020, Mitchell spoke about her aneurysm and recovery.
“I haven’t been writing recently. I haven’t been playing my guitar or the piano or anything. No, I’m just concentrating on getting my health back. You know what? I came back from polio (at age 9), so here I am again, and struggling back,” she said.
Asked how she’d describe the five years since the aneurysm, she said, “Just inching my way along. I’m showing slow improvement but moving forward.”
“I couldn’t walk. I had to learn how again,” she continued. “Polio didn’t grab me like that, but the aneurysm took away a lot more, really. Took away my speech and my ability to walk. I got my speech back quickly, but the walking, I’m still struggling with. But I mean, I’m a fighter. I’ve got Irish blood! … I knew, ‘Here I go again, another battle.'”
One of the first times Mitchell was seen in public with a cane was in December 2021, when she accepted her Kennedy Center Honor.
“I always think that polio was a rehearsal for the rest of my life,” she said in her speech. “I’ve had to come back several times from things. And this last one was a real whopper. But, you know, I’m hobbling along but I’m doing all right!”
Joni Mitchell has said she suffered from Morgellons disease
Over the years, Mitchell has frequently spoken about her experience with Morgellons disease, which the Mayo Clinic describes as an “unexplained skin condition.”
Morgellons disease is not a recognized medical condition, according to Mayo Clinic, and is “characterized by a belief that parasites or fibers are emerging from the skin.”
“People with this condition often report feeling as if something is crawling on or stinging their skin. The intense itching and sores associated with Morgellons disease can severely interfere with a person’s quality of life,” the Mayo Clinic says.
During an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2010, Mitchell described her condition as a “weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space.”
“Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral,” she said.
Mitchell noted that Morgellons is often diagnosed as “delusion of parasites,” which the Mayo Clinic also states on its website.
“Some health care providers recognize the condition as a delusional infestation and treat it with antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling. Others think the symptoms are related to an infectious process in skin cells. Further study is needed,” the website explains.
While speaking with Billboard in 2014, Mitchell said that her skin condition left her unable to travel much and that she mostly stayed in her Los Angeles home.
“I can fly off to Canada, that’s about all I can handle. And I’m sick on both ends for about 10 to 12 days,” she said. “My immune system is also very taxed … just being delicate. I’m always jet-lagged so touring was always hard for me. And now it’s kind of impossible.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described Morgellons disease in a 2012 report as “a poorly characterized constellation of symptoms, with the primary manifestations involving the skin.”
The report concluded that Morgellons is “associated with significantly reduced health-related quality of life. No common underlying medical condition or infectious source was identified, similar to more commonly recognized conditions such as delusional infestation.”
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