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The Rare Disease That Ended Joni Mitchell’s Career

Joni Mitchell, known as one of the best songwriters in music, had a highly celebrated and influential career. Mitchell’s approach to music struck a chord with many female listeners. In an era dominated by the stereotypical male rock star, she presented herself as multidimensional and conflicted. Which allowed her to build a powerful identity amongst her female fans.

But unlike other artists who have continued their work as musicians. And still release new albums as they’ve gotten older, like Paul McCartney and Neil Young. Mitchell forced into early retirement. This was not by any choice of hers, or any behind the scenes dramas, and certainly not any contract disputes. No, this was something else entirely.

Joni Mitchell suffers from an extremely rare disease. So rare, in fact, that it’s not even recognised by the medical community. Join us as we take a look at this rare disease, Joni Mitchell controversies and misunderstandings. And to see just how and why it has ended the career of such a great of the music industry.

Joni Mitchell is one of the greatest songwriters ever

Joni Mitchell is a Canadian singer-songwriter, born on November 7th, 1943. Mitchell’s unique sound by drawing from rock, pop, folk, classical, and jazz, heightened by her songs often reflecting on social and philosophical ideals. Within her music she would often muse on her feelings about romance, womanhood, disillusionment, and joy. Mitchell asserted her desire for artistic control throughout her career, and still holds the publishing rights for her music.

Throughout her career, Mitchell has received many accolades, including nine Grammy Awards and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1997. She called one of the greatest songwriters ever by Rolling Stone, and AllMusic said about her, “When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”. It is hard to be more distinguished in the music world than that.

She started her career by singing in small nightclubs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and throughout western Canada. This led to the nightclubs of Toronto, Ontario, and in 1965, she moved to the United States and began touring.

Several of her songs covered by other folk singers. This allowed her to sign with Reprise Records and record her debut album, Song to a Seagull, in 1968. Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue looked upon as one of the best albums of all time. In Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, Blue rated the 30th best album ever made. It rose to Number three in the 2020 edition.

It doesn’t stop there for the album Blue. In 2017, NPR ranked the album number 1 on a list of Greatest Albums Made By Women. In 2002, Mitchell awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards.

Joni Mitchell suffers from a rare disease

Joni Mitchell has long suffered from a rare and little understood condition called Morgellons disease. It is the intensity of this uncommon disease that caused the beloved singer to stop performing, recording, and traveling in recent years.

It was in 2010 that Mitchell first opened up about her battle with Morgellons. She described the condition as a weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space. When Mitchell described in more detail, it left her fans shocked and concerned. She said of the disease, “Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral.” If that reminds you of the sci-fi horrors, Alien or The Thing, you’re not the only one. Yikes!

In 2014, Mitchell discussed further about how this alienesque disease had impacted her life. She explained how she can’t fly without feeling the consequences. The furthest she could go was from the US to Canada. This would push her to being sick for ten to twelve days. Due to the heavy metals and viruses in the air of the plane. Her immune system was delicate, and even jetlag was hard to bear.

Mitchell opened up about how she couldn’t wear clothing. She was unable to leave her house for several years. There’d be times when her legs would cramp up, leaving her having to crawl across the floor.

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Morgellons is a medical controversy

Joni Mitchell was able to find help through a physician that thought way outside of the box. While not curing her from the disease, they were able to help her live with it. Turning to a physician for help was mainly due to Morgellons being a controversy within the medical community.

It took until 2002 for the disease to named. Pennsylvania lab technician, Mary Leitao, named the condition. According to sufferers of the disease, fibers grow from lesions in the skin. This is potentially because of tiny parasites. Crawling sensations, extreme itching, mental fog and general fatigue are also named as symptoms of the Morgellons.

The broader medical community still does not recognize it as a disease, despite sufferers uniting behind groups like the Morgellons Research Foundation. This lack of recognition has led to there not being many reliable numbers on sufferers. Despite this, it’s believed initial outbreaks seemed to cluster in California.

What Happened in 2012?

In 2012, the Center for Disease Control released a report on Morgellons and claimed to not find the disease to have infectious or environmental causes. It has referred to as unexplained apparent dermopathy, which means a psychosomatic condition. All biopsies of affected areas came back either negative, or positive for skin conditions like dermatitis.

One problem that has acknowledged by the medical community is self-diagnosis. This is due to many patients who self-diagnose with Morgellons are often treated for delusional parasitosis. Delusional parasitosis is the delusion of infested with parasites.

The argument for Morgellons a psychosomatic ailment is substantiated by the fact that the disease’s rise is directly correlated with the rise of the Internet. When a patient self-diagnoses, they can easily find online support in the Morgellons communities. Finding others with the same self-diagnoses inevitably lends credence to their own experience. This can get multiplied when rather than accepting a doctor’s professional diagnosis that there’s no medical cause for their symptoms. they will seek the comfort of those suffering the same thing. Due to the ongoing stigma of mental illness that still occurs today, many people refuse to accept such a diagnosis.

Skin Deep, a Morgellons documentary

Released in 2019 over multiple streaming services, Skin Deep: The Battle Over Morgellons is a documentary that challenges the belief that Morgellons is an issue of delusion. The documentary follows a nurse who squares off against a dermatologist as they fight to discover the truth behind the controversial disease.

As evidence linking Morgellons to Lyme disease mounts, this documentary poses the question, who is delusional, the patients who believe or the doctors who deny? Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can spread to humans by infected ticks. And is usually easier to treat if it’s diagnosed early.

Joni Mitchell’s struggles continued

It was in 2010 that Joni Mitchell announced her plans to leave the music industry in order to work towards giving more credibility to people diagnosed with Morgellons. But in 2015, she suffered a brain aneurysm rupture. This required Mitchell to undergo physical therapy, and included taking on daily rehabilitation.

Since the aneurysm, Mitchell’s first public appearance was attending a Chick Corea concert in Los Angeles, in August of 2016. She followed this with a few other appearances. In November of 2018, singer/songwriter David Crosby announced that Mitchell was learning to walk again.

Mitchell has recently approved a number of archival projects. This included the documentary Both Sides Now: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970. Eagle Rock Entertainment released the Murray Lerner-directed documentary in September 2018, which included restored video footage and previously unseen interviews with Joni Mitchell. There’s also been the release of a separate program featuring the complete concert uninterrupted.

On November 2nd, 2018, Mitchell released an 8-LP vinyl reissue of Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced. A limited-edition blue vinyl edition of Blue followed and released in January of 2019.

Mitchell Attend a Birthday Celebration Concert

Mitchell attended the Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration concert in Los Angeles, on November 7th, 2018. The concert was to celebrate her 75th birthday and featured a select group of artists. These artists included James Taylor, Graham Nash, Seal and Kris Kristofferson, who interpreted songs written by Mitchell.Selections from that night’s performances released on DVD, along with a separate CD release.

Mitchell later attended another tribute concert, Songs Are Like Tattoos, which featured Joni 75 participant Brandi Carlile performing Mitchell’s Blue album in full. Mitchell also approved Joni: The Joni Mitchell Sessions, which a book of photos taken and collected by Norman Seeff, which released in November of 2018.

What are your thoughts, do you believe a disease like Morgellons, which has been able to end the career of such a musical great, could be a psychological illness? Or does the medical community owe it to the countless victims of Morgellons, to investigate and gain more knowledge about the condition?

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