Joni Mitchell Returns to Newport Stage After 53 Years

Facilitated by friends including Brandi Carlile, Joni Mitchell performed in front of a live audience for the first time since a debilitating brain aneurysm nearly took her life in 2015.

A 78-year-old Joni Mitchell returned to the stage on Sunday in a surprise appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. The legendary Canadian folk singer-songwriter and musical poet sat on a Louis XIV “throne” and enjoyed a full set of sing-alongs and solos.

Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling
Still I'd be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

A survivor who touts “will and grit,” Mitchell survived polio at the age of nine, and willed herself to walk again. The aneurysm took her ability to play a guitar, but she played on Sunday again after re-learning the skill.

“I’m learning,” she said. “I’m looking at videos that are on the net to see where I put my fingers, you know.”

And the seasons, they go 'round and 'round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look
Behind, from where we came
And go 'round and 'round and 'round, in the circle game

With public appearances limited, Mitchell has still made headlines in the past few years. She recently joined Neil Young in boycotting Spotify over the platform’s Covid vaccine misinformation, was a Kennedy Center’s Honoree, and a MusiCares’ Person of the Year at the Grammys.

CBS, NPR, NYT