Joni Mitchell re-learned guitar after her brain aneurysm by watching online videos

Mitchell recently performed at the Newport Folk Festival for the first time in 53 years

Joni Mitchell has opened up about re-learning the guitar following her brain aneurysm, after a surprise appearance at Newport Folk Festival over the weekend.

During the ‘Joni Jam’, as curated by singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, Mitchell performed 13 songs with an ensemble of musicians – marking her first time playing the festival in 53 years. Although she was primarily seated and mostly focused solely on singing during the festival, she did stand and play guitar during ‘Just Like This Train’ – a song from her 1974 album ‘Court and Spark’.

In an interview with CBS Mornings, Mitchell opened up about playing guitar on-stage for the first time in decades. As noted by the program, the ability to play the instrument was one of the skills Mitchell lost following her aneurysm in 2015.


“I’m learning,” she said to reporter Anthony Mason when asked about returning to playing. “I’m looking at videos that are on the net, to see where to put my fingers. It’s amazing… when you have an aneurysm, you don’t know how to get into a chair. You don’t know how to get out of bed. You have to learn all these things again. You’re going back to infancy, almost.”

When asked by Mason how she found the will to do these things again, Mitchell responded that she didn’t know. She did point out, however, that her brain surgeon said to her that she had “will and grit”. “Do you think you have will and grit?”, the reporter asked, to which Mitchell replied: “Yeah, I think I do.”

Watch the full interview below:

The ‘Joni Jam’ marked the first full set Mitchell has performed since 2000. Alongside Carlile, other musicians that were part of the performance included Marcus Mumford, country singer Wynona Judd and Dawes‘ Taylor Goldsmith.

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