Joni Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson on November 7, 1943, in Fort McCloud, Alberta to Myrtle and Bill Anderson.
Joni’s childhood was terrific as she got polio at the age of 9 and had to use a wheelchair.
Mitchell said in 1995, “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. “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.”
Joni went on to study arts in college as she love painting, but the music was still present in her life. She often visited the clubhouse to listen to some jazz music. During her regular visits, a particular group was playing and when she asked the group’s singer to teach her how to teach the guitar; he refused, and Joni decided to learn by herself.
“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.”
She soon started touring the world and along the line, she fell in love and got married to Chuck Mitchell in 1965. Around that time she also had a daughter who she gave up for adoption. Life was tough and she knew she couldn’t be the parent she wanted. The situation was the inspiration behind one of her most beloved songs, Both Sides, Now.
Joni told NPR of the song, “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. I had to give her up for adoption. You know, like, ’cause I couldn’t get enough money together.”
“I married this guy, you know, 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.”
Giving her up for adoption was one of the toughest decisions she ever made but luck was on her side and the duo got united again.
“I’ve had pain and joy in my life but nothing like this,” Joni Mitchell said at the time of the reunion. “It’s an unparalleled emotional feeling.”
Her daughter, Kilauren Gibb, said, “It was wonderful, it was a great relief to me in every way, it made me feel whole. It made me feel complete. I don’t have any expectations. I didn’t come into this thing with expectations, I just wanted to find my mom.”