At 80, Joni Mitchell wins her 10th Grammy — and performs at the ceremony for the first time
On Sunday night, the legendary folk singer-songwriter won her 10th Grammy Award — and performed at the ceremony for the first time in her career
Joni Mitchell is no stranger to the Grammys. She’s now won 10 in her career, plus a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy.
But the Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday marked a significant milestone in Mitchell’s decadeslong career: The 80-year-old singer-songwriter performed at the event for the first time.
Following an introduction from friend and collaborator Brandi Carlile, who called Mitchell her “hero,” a “matriarch of imagination” and “a true Renaissance woman,” Mitchell appeared on stage in a regal, golden arm chair, facing away from the crowd as she began to sing one of her biggest hits, “Both Sides Now.”
As she sang, the chair slowly rotated to face Mitchell’s appreciative audience, who began to cheer for the legendary folk singer-songwriter. Mitchell was accompanied by Carlile — who produced the 2023 live album “Joni Mitchell at Newport” that won a Grammy Award for best folk album Sunday night — and a number of other friends and musicians.
Following the performance, Grammys host Trevor Noah walked onto the stage to hand Mitchell her 10th Grammy for the album that brings to life Mitchell’s first public performance since suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015, not to mention her first full set in two decades, according to The New York Times.
“We had so much fun at that concert, and I think you can feel it on the record,” Mitchell said following her win Sunday night, per USA Today. “It’s a very joyous record because of the people I played with and the spirit of the occasion was very high and it went onto the record. Even the audience sounds like music.”
Here’s a look at the significance of Mitchell’s Grammy Award-winning album — and what’s next in her career.
The significance of Joni Mitchell’s performance at Newport Folk Festival
Carlile was performing at the 2022 Newport Folk Festival, held in Rhode Island, when partway through her set, she surprised everyone in attendance by inviting Mitchell out. Then 78, the folk legend behind “Both Sides Now” and “Big Yellow Taxi” took the stage and proceeded to deliver a string of hits, telling stories and interacting with the crowd all the while, the Deseret News previously reported.
Near the end of the set, Carlile sat by Mitchell’s side, visibly emotional as the artist began to sing “Both Sides Now” with a voice that has deepened with age. The festival was outside, but the crowd was completely quiet, recognizing the significance of the moment.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” wrote Los Angeles Times culture columnist Mary McNamara. “The simple sight and sound of her was astonishing enough; the world had every reason to believe they would never hear this legend sing live again.”
Although she’s never really been one for the spotlight, Mitchell’s appearances had become rare following her brain aneurysm, which rendered her “unable to speak or walk, much less play the guitar,” NPR reported. The singer relearned to walk and has said she learned how to play the guitar again by watching videos of herself.
In her 2021 memoir “Broken Horses,” Carlile recalled taking part in a tribute show celebrating Mitchell’s 75th birthday, along with artists including James Taylor, Graham Nash and Kris Kristofferson. Mitchell appeared onstage during the encore, as her fellow artists surrounded her and performed one of her biggest hits.
All she wanted was to stand alone on that stage so that when the curtain came up, there she’d be on her own two feet, Carlile wrote. She gave it all she had at the time, but the curtain had been down for too long, and in the end, she had to sit in a chair when the curtain went up. I hated seeing that. Joni radiates dignity. She is as regal as a human can get.
We all sang ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ staring at her in total admiration and disbelief that she was onstage with us at all — sitting or standing, it made no difference to us, but it did to her.
She was determined to walk again. ‘For a third time,’ as she would explain to me later. ‘Once out of infancy, once out of the polio, and one final time now.’
Mitchell’s comeback is the stuff of legends. Her surprise show at the Newport Folk Festival featured several hits, including “A Case of You” and Ira Gershwin’s “Summertime.” Carlile, who Mitchell has mentored over the years, shared on X at the time that she would “never be over this.”
“Surrounded by an adoring crowd of friends, fellow musicians, and admirers — many of whom were not yet born when Mitchell wrote ‘Both Sides Now’ — she seemed to sing it this time with a grinning shrug: I really don’t know life at all,” The New York Times reported. “As if to say: You never know — anything can happen. Even this.”
Joni Mitchell keeps on performing
And Mitchell’s set at the Newport Folk Festival was apparently just the beginning of a new chapter in her career. In 2023, the singer took part in Carlile’s heavily advertised “Joni Jam” at the Gorge in Washington state, and also was a major part of a Brandi Carlile & Friends show at the Hollywood Bowl last fall, per Variety.
Now, Mitchell has announced her first headlining show in Los Angeles in more than 20 years. This October, the singer is headlining the Hollywood Bowl — and she added on a second show “due to overwhelming demand,” per USA Today.
Her performance this Sunday at the Grammys will mark the latest in her gradual return to the stage.
What Grammys has Joni Mitchell won?
Mitchell’s Grammy wins span a period of more than 50 years. Here’s a look at her wins, per Grammy.com:
- 1970 — Best folk performance for “Clouds.”
- 1975 — Best arrangement, instrument and vocals for “Down to You.”
- 1996 — Best recording package for “Turbulent Indigo.”
- 1996 — Best pop album for “Turbulent Indigo.”
- 2001 — Best traditional pop vocal album for “Both Sides Now.”
- 2008 — Best pop instrumental performance for “One Week Last Summer.”
- 2008 — Album of the year for “River: The Joni Letters.”
- 2016 — Best album notes for “Love Has Many Faces.”
- 2022 — Best historical album for “Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967).”
- 2024 — Best folk album for “Joni Mitchell at Newport.”