On June 23, the 50th anniversary of the release of her extraordinary, intimate album Blue, Joni Mitchell smiled through a rare Instagram video.
“I’m so pleased with all of the positive attention that Blue is receiving these days,” she said, sitting outside with sunshine glinting off her white-blond braids. “Fifty years later, people finally get it,” she said, laughing in delight. Do they ever!
A new EP of demos and outtakes from the album has recently been released, and Joni, 77, will be recognized at the next Kennedy Center Honors.
Although she’s still struggling with her health after a 2015 brain aneurysm, Joni plans to attend the event on Dec. 5 in Washington, D.C. “She cried with happiness when she heard about the honor,” a friend of the singer-songwriter tells Closer. “Joni has never taken anything for granted and has always been a humble person.”
She earned that attitude through tough life lessons. At 9, Joni contracted polio and was told she’d never walk again. But she exercised her legs even after everyone around her gave up, and eventually regained her strength. “That’s the fighting Irish, eh?” the Canadian performer says proudly.
She even credits her early health crisis for having “made an artist out of me,” because not walking for a time “made me have an inner life.”
Her determination served her again after the devastating aneurysm. “Polio didn’t grab me like that,” Joni admits, “but the aneurysm took away a lot more, really — my speech and my ability to walk.”
But now, her friend says, “she’s undergoing physical therapy and holistic treatments, and her mind is sharper than ever. And she’s not giving up on that jewel of a voice.”
No doubt many of her lifelong friends will show up to celebrate Joni on Dec. 5. She plans to be well enough to enjoy it, too. “[I’m] just inching my way along,” Joni says. “I’m showing slow improvement but mov- ing forward.”