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Inside Joni Mitchell’s Big Musical Comeback After Suffering a Near-Fatal Brain Aneurysm Print-ready version

by Louise Barile
Closer Weekly
February 15, 2024

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Early in her life, Joni Mitchell aspired to be both a performer and a painter. Georgia O'Keeffe, the great artist, told her she couldn't do both. Joni insisted she could. "You just have to give up TV," she joked.

At 80, the Canadian-American singer-songwriter still paints, but it's her music that is having an unexpected moment. At the recent Grammy Awards, Joni reduced the audience to tears with her poignant performance of her 1969 hit "Both Sides Now." A day later, it drove her 2023 live album, Joni Mitchell at Newport, which won the Grammy for Best Folk Album, to the top of Amazon's rock chart. Meanwhile, a second Joni Jam show, starring Joni and featuring frequent collaborator Brandi Carlile, has been scheduled for the Hollywood Bowl in October.

A Long Road Back

It's remarkable that less than 10 years ago, Joni suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm that left her unable to sing, talk, play guitar or walk. "[I'm] hard to discourage and hard to kill," said Joni, who began her career on the early 1960s coffeehouse scene. Other folk performers claimed the best traditional songs as their own, so Joni started writing her own tunes. In addition to "Both Sides Now," her best-loved songs include "Woodstock," "Chelsea Morning" and "Big Yellow Taxi."

Joni's songs have always been autobiographical, but she's yet to release the memoir she began working on in the 1990s. The performer, who became both a mother and a grandmother at age 54 when the daughter she gave up for adoption returned to her life, once teased that her memoir would have to be released in four volumes. And while Joni enjoys the accolades and renewed attention to her work, she bristles when she's called the world's greatest female songwriter. "What do you mean female?" she's said. "Don't put a lid on it: It transcends boundaries."

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Added to Library on February 19, 2024. (394)

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