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Joni Mitchell: A 'bad' girl?

Long before she was a music icon, she was a Canadian prairie girl who loved to paint. But art school wasn't for Joni Mitchell, so she dropped out and joined the folk music circuit. By the late 1960s, her star was starting to soar. Mitchell's musical style evolved significantly over the decades, but her sensitive yet spirited personality has always shone through.

Joni Mitchell started smoking at the tender age of nine. "You were bad," laughs interviewer Pamela Wallin in this 1996 TV clip. "I don't know, was it bad?" wonders Mitchell. Also at nine, she suffered from polio. But she calls her experience with the disease "a blessing, in a way," because it helped her develop her artistic side. In this clip, Mitchell also speaks frankly about the "child out of wedlock" she gave up for adoption in 1965, whom she had yet to meet. 
• Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort Macleod, Alta., on Nov. 7, 1943. When she was nine, her family moved to Saskatoon.
• As a young girl, Joni was known for her artistic talent. She planned to be a visual artist when she grew up.

• She went to the Alberta College of Art in Calgary after graduating from high school, but dropped out in 1964 after only a year. She then moved to Toronto to pursue folk singing.
• Around the same time, she found out she was pregnant. The father was an ex-boyfriend. She gave her daughter up for adoption in 1965.

• Also in 1965, at the age of 21, Joni married a folk singer named Chuck Mitchell and changed her name to Joni Mitchell. The couple moved to Detroit. The marriage only lasted a year and a half.
• At the time of this 1996 Pamela Wallin interview, Mitchell had not yet reunited with her daughter. A well-publicized reunion did occur a year later, however. (For more on their reunion, see the clip Dr. Mitchell).

• Polio is a viral disease that could lead to paralysis. In 1952 - just before Joni contracted polio - American Dr. Jonas Salk began testing his new polio vaccine. But the vaccine, which would soon eradicate the disease in North America, wasn't considered safe for widespread use until 1955. (For more on this, see the CBC Archives topic Polio: Eradicating the Crippler.)
Medium: Television
Program: Pamela Wallin
Broadcast Date: Feb. 19, 1996
Guest(s): Joni Mitchell
Host: Pamela Wallin
Duration: 8:06

Last updated: June 6, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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