Where is Joni Mitchell?
More importantly, how is she doing?
The icon of West Coast folk-pop and jazz was admitted to the hospital this past March 31 after being found unconscious at her Los Angeles–area home. She regained consciousness on the way to the hospital and was put in intensive care, where, according to her website, she was “awake and in good spirits.” For the next days fans waited for new word of her condition.
Some five days afterward, Mitchell’s site had little to say aside from, “Joni remains under observation in the hospital and is resting comfortably. We are encouraged by her progress and she continues to improve and get stronger each day.”
It’s nearly two months later, and so far there has been little news about the state of her health. Mitchell has suffered from various illnesses over the years. She revealed in February that eight years ago she was diagnosed with Morgellons, a skin disorder characterized by sores and crawling sensations that are felt on and under the skin. But no one has said if her latest health problem is due to a previously diagnosed ailment or something new.
In typical fashion, the lack of new information has allowed speculation to run wild. When, at the end of April, Mitchell’s friend Leslie Morris sought legal authority over her medical care, many took that to mean Mitchell was in a coma and unable to discuss her treatment with doctors. While the singer’s camp says she is “alert” and fully responsive, at the hearing for Morris’s request the judge was told the singer may not be able to work with doctors on decisions about her medical care or long-term treatment once she leaves the hospital, suggesting that, no matter how you look at it, her condition is serious.
Mitchell’s attorney agreed with Morris’s request, saying it was “very necessary.” The judge granted Morris the authority she sought, in part due to urgency—one of the attorneys at the hearing said Mitchell may be well enough to leave the hospital soon and will need someone to make health care decisions for her.
Three weeks later, we can only wonder when that day will come or what Mitchell’s state will be at that time.
It is, of course, entirely possible that Mitchell is out of the hospital and simply wants to return to her privacy and continue to heal. Thus, the silence. That was the thought I had after watching “Joni Mitchell on Illusions,” a new animated clip that is part of the ongoing Blank on Blank series of illustrated audio interviews presented by PBS. This video, shown below, is based on an edit of an interview between Mitchell and music executive Joe Smith, conducted in November 1986.
In it, Mitchell talks about illusions of celebrity and her desire to swim unnoticed among the small fish in the large pond. She notes that she likes to do her own grocery shopping and tells a story about a concert attendee who was angered to see her seated in the floor section of a venue rather than in a balcony, where he felt she should be.
“Some people are upset to see you doing ordinary things,” Mitchell says.
Mitchell reveals how she would take road trips on her own, disguising herself with wigs, when necessary. She also talks about preferring dancing to intellectualism, her failures as student, and her desire to present herself as she is rather than as a star.
“As [David ] Geffen pointed out, ‘You’re the only star I’ve ever met that wanted to be ordinary,’” she recalls.
One especially telling moment comes when Mitchell talks about the difficulty of being the center of attention.
“I still don’t really like the attention of a birthday party,” she says. “I prefer Christmas, which is everybody’s holiday.”
Enjoy the interview, and think good thoughts for Joni Mitchell.