Joni Mitchell became an instant cult classic when she released her debut album. With songs such as Both Sides Now and Big Yellow Taxi under her belt, the legendary singer is considered one of the most influential artists of the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, she has continued to inspire others.

At the same time as Mitchell’s place in music history can never be debated, she’s endured a pretty rough time of things in the last decade, including being diagnosed with a mysterious disease that she described as something “from outer space.” Weeks ago, she made her first public appearance in a very long time. Suffice to say that at 78, she still looks terrific!

So how did Joni Mitchell grow to fame? And why did she decide to give her daughter up for adoption? This is all you need to know about the legendary singer and songwriter!

Joni Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson on November 7, 1943, in Fort McCloud, Alberta. She was the only child of parents Myrtle and Bill Anderson. It seems that Joni was destined for a music career right from the beginning.

The start of Joni Mitchell’s life wasn’t easy at all. At age nine, she got polio and was put in a wheelchair. She began singing to other children at the hospital, but her first-ever “performances” weren’t well received by the other patients.

“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 said in 1995.

“It’s like multiple sclerosis. It means your electrical system burns out and your muscles begin to atrophy. It means impending paraplegia.”

She added: “I have to guard my energy. Just like the bunnies in those battery commercials. I’m the one that’s about to keel over. I’m not the one that’s going and going.”

When she was young, Joni’s family moved to a small town in Saskatchewan called Maidstone. After that, they moved again to Battleford, and later to Saskatoon. Her mother, Myrtle, always wanted Joni to get involved in music, as her father also worked in the business.

He was involved with marching bands when Joni was young, and played trumpet. Joni had piano lessons as a youngster, but she was more interested in painting, and later went to art college.

Even so, music was very much present in her life, even when her parents weren’t around.

Mitchell ended up regularly going to a coffeehouse to listen to some jazz music. She described herself as the “rock and roller, teeny-bop go-to-dances-on-Saturday-night-type” and didn’t really enjoy the jazz.

Yet she still returned to the same place several times, and that has since transpired to likely be the most important decision she made.

One night, a particular band caught her attention, and Joni asked the group’s singer to teach her how to teach the guitar. He didn’t want to, and so Joni instead insisted on learning to play by herself. Only, there was one massive obstacle.

“I went out and bought myself a ukulele because my mother thought that guitar…she sort of associated guitar music with country and western, which was sort of hillbillyish there,” she recalled.

“I bought myself a ukulele and I plunked my way through most of the summer. Then I went off to art college and started playing in a club there with Peter Albling, who was the headliner.”

As mentioned, Joni actually attended art college, though music soon became a large part of her life. Alongside Peter Abling, she landed gigs in several Canadian cities, and moved on to play at folk festivals.

Not long after, Joni met Chuck Mitchell. The two fell in love and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where they worked as a duo. They married in 1965, with Joni taking on his last name. Though the couple divorced just two years later, she kept the surname.

Around that time, Joni also gave birth to a daughter, though she decided to give her up for adoption. This part of her life was very tough on Mitchell, and it actually became something of the inspiration behind one of her most beloved songs, Both Sides, Now.

“I’ve gone through some bad stuff already. You know, the loss of my daughter. I was in a bad marriage. You know, it’s love’s illusion,” Joni told NPR of the song, adding that she gave up her daughter to give her a brighter future.

“I had to give her up for adoption. You know, like, ’cause I couldn’t get enough money together,” she added.

“I married this guy, you know, in order to kind of keep her, and then I thought, ‘No, no, no. This is not a good home. I don’t want to bring — she’s better off elsewhere, you know, than to come in on this. I’ve got to get out of this marriage. It’s not working,’ you know. We married each other for the wrong reasons, you know. Both of us.”

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