In 2015, Joni Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm and had to be hospitalized for months. Reports on her condition were sparse, and the folk legend herself kept quiet about many of the details. That is, until now: Five years later, Mitchell has finally opened up about that very scary time and her recovery progress so far in a rare Guardian interview conducted by friend and renowned director Cameron Crowe.
While still in the hospital, close friends claimed Mitchell lost the ability to speak. Speaking to Crowe, Mitchell confirmed that that was indeed the case, but that wasn’t all that was taken from her. “I couldn’t talk. Polio didn’t grab me like that, but the aneurysm took away a lot more, really,” she recalled. “Took away my speech and my ability to walk.”
As an artist and performer, being unable to sing and walk meant Mitchell could have faced the end of her career. Luckily, her speech returned “quickly”. She can also walk again, but it’s still something she’s “struggling with” these days.
Perhaps the most unexpected consequence of her brain aneurysm is how it’s affected her songwriting. “I haven’t been writing recently,” she remarked. “I haven’t been playing my guitar or the piano or anything. I’m just concentrating on getting my health back [from a 2015 aneurysm].”
Despite these setbacks, the 76-year-old doesn’t sound discouraged about her future. “You know what? I came back from polio, so here I am again, and struggling back,” said Mitchell. She later added with a laugh, “I’m a fighter. I’ve got Irish blood! So you know, I knew, ‘Here I go again, another battle.’”
Mitchell may not be penning new music, but she does have a big release on the way in the form of Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967). The archival collection, due out October 30th, features an early recording of “House of the Rising Sun” and the first-ever original demo of her entire career, “Day After Day”. Order your copy here.
In related Mitchell news, plenty of musicians have paid tribute to her in recent months, including James Blake and Harry Styles.