10 Things You Didn't Know About Joni Mitchell

Happy Birthday Joni Mitchell

Tony Varela Photography / Flickr

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Happy Birthday Joni Mitchell
Tony Varela Photography / Flickr

Happy Birthday Joni

Joni Mitchell is having a resurgence. This past summer the legendary singer made a surprise appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, where she performed what some are calling a historical set of songs. Mitchell turns 79 on November 7th — in honor of her birthday, here are some things you may not know about her. 

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Joni Mitchell Drawings

Before She Was a Singer, She Was a Painter

Mitchell's first love was painting. She studied art in her native Canada at Calgary's Alberta College of Art. Of Mitchell's 19 albums, 12 of the covers are her own paintings and mainly self portraits.

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Song to a Seagull
Gambling Debt

She's A Good Poker Player

Mitchell is said to have been an avid poker player. She apparently would play in poker games at the house of Glenn Frey, singer for The Eagles. Mitchell’s love for poker is even referenced in the song "Taming the Tiger" in which she sings, “every disc being a poker chip.”

Polio-3-chains by Manuel Almagro Rivas (CC BY-SA)

She Had a Childhood Battle With Polio

It's well-known that Mitchell contracted polio at age 9, but some may not know how the disease affected her later in life. "My spine was twisted up like a train wreck. I couldn't walk. I was paralyzed. Forty years later, it comes back with a vengeance," Mitchell has been quoted as saying. Mitchell first started singing and performing for patients while she was recovering in the hospital as a child. It's also said that her polio-damaged left hand is what inspired her to use her trademark open guitar tunings.

Joni Mitchell 20211204SM1330
Library of Congress Life / Flickr

She's Dealt With Other Health Woes

In 2015, Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm. It left her unable to temporarily walk and talk, but she's said her experience with Polio helped her deal with this new health scare. "“I always think that polio was a rehearsal for the rest of my life,” she is quoted as saying.  “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!” Mitchell also has suffered with Morgellons disease, a condition where it feels like something is crawling on or stinging the skin.

Related: Celebrities With Health Conditions You Didn't Know About

Festival de Woodstock, (1969)
Txemari (Argazki) / Flickr
Newborn baby and pregnancy

She Gave a Child Up For Adoption

In February 1965, Mitchell, then known as Joan Anderson, gave birth to a baby girl whose father was a Canadian artist. Mitchell was single and broke, and made the hard decision to give her daughter up for adoption. Mitchell was so secretive about it, her own family didn't even know she was pregnant. She reunited with her daughter in 1995 when rumors about her secret pregnancy started circulating. 

Joni Mitchell Shine

She's Always Produced Her Own Music

Mitchell has always been a sole producer of her work, in a bid to make sure she retains control over her 17 original albums. Her last studio album, "Shine", was released in 2007.

The Early Years Joni Mitchell

She's Been Nominated For and Won Multiple Grammys

Mitchell has been nominated for 17 Grammy Awards and won nine of them. Some of her wins include Best Folk Performance in 1970, Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) in 1975, and Best Pop Album in 1996. She also received the Kennedy Honors Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

Joni Mitchell's star on Canada's Walk of Fame
Joni Mitchell's star on Canada's Walk of Fame by Tabercil (CC BY-SA)

She's Also Received Major Awards in Canada

Joni Mitchell is one of only three Canadian songwriters to be given the Order of Canada, which is the country's second highest merit of honor. The other two are Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot.