Did Joni Mitchell have polio? Health issues explored as country legend's Grammy performance leaves fans emotional

66th GRAMMY Awards - Show
Joni Mitchell singing "Both Sides Now" at the 66th Grammy Awards. (Image via Getty Images/John Shearer)

Canadian-American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and painter Joni Mitchell, who first won a Grammy in 1969 for her album Clouds, made a significant return to the Grammy stage during the 66th edition of the awards show on the night of February 4, 2024.

Mitchell sang her well-known track Both Sides Now (part of Clouds), which won the hearts of the live audience as well as people on the internet. In the now-viral video, the 80-year-old artist was seated on a throne-like chair, donning her iconic cane, and surrounded by star musicians, including Brandi Carlile, Allison Russell, Jacob Collier, Lucius, Sista Strings, and Blake Mills, who accompanied her.

After her captivating performance, people around the world were curious about her health, with a general question being, Does she have polio? Throughout her life, Joni Mitchell has faced several health challenges, including battling polio and overcoming a brain aneurysm.


Everything you need to know about Joni Mitchell’s health problems over the years

According to her official website, Joni Mitchell was diagnosed with polio in 1952 at the age of 9. Although she initially overcame the disease, in 1995, she experienced a relapse, leading to the onset of post-polio syndrome. Here’s what she said at the time.

“I had polio at the age of 9. 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.”

Later, in 2021, the country legend stated that “polio was a rehearsal for the rest of my life” during a Kennedy Center Honors event.

According to Parade, the Help Me singer also had a recurring and rare skin disorder called Morgellon’s disease, which makes one feel like something constantly stings or crawls on their skin, accompanied by severe itching, sores, and dark spots.

During a 2021 interview with The Los Angeles Times, Mitchell said she had been struggling with “this weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space.”

Apart from these, the singer also suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm in March 2015 and was found unconscious in her home following a rupture. Fortunately, the multiple-time Grammy winner bounced back to health but had to undergo severe physical therapy and rehabilitation.

She was even unable to walk and talk for many weeks and had to relearn everything from scratch, including eating and playing instruments she was previously fluent in. During a 2022 CBS News interview, she described her hemorrhagic stroke (another name for brain aneurysm) experience as a “return to infancy.”

Joni Mitchell was even wheelchair-bound for years after the aneurysm, and she attended the birthday party of Sir Elton John in 2017 in a wheelchair. In recent times, she has been walking with the help of her trademark cane.


Internet applauds Joni Mitchell’s Grammys 2024 performance

On Sunday evening, Joni Mitchell took to the stage at the Grammy Awards 2024 and sang her iconic rendition of Both Sides Now, winning the hearts of the audience.

Her performance at the pre-telecast Premiere Ceremony of the 2024 Grammys also left her fans on the internet emotional, with everyone lauding her spirits despite her old age and recurring health issues over the years. Here are some of the comments from X.

So far, the music icon has received 11 Grammy Awards, including 10 competitive and 1 honorary, aka the 2002 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The first came 55 years ago, and the most recent in 2024 for her album Joni Mitchell at Newport [Live] in the Best Folk Album category. It was recorded in 2022 during her surprise comeback performance at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.

Edited by Shubham Soni
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