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Joni Mitchell Met Her Only Child 32 Years after Giving Her Up for Adoption While Broke & Unwed

Oyin Balogun
Sep 26, 2021
02:10 A.M.
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Before Joni Mitchell became the famous figure everyone loves now, she was Roberta Joan Anderson, a broke student who had to make a difficult decision — this is the truth behind her fame.


Joni Mitchell is a living legend. Literally. The talented artist is responsible for writing many songs that helped define a generation. A modest woman who describes herself as a "lonely painter" who ironically enjoys "living alone."

Mitchell's life is one of triumph, the story of a woman who would not stop until she got what she wanted. A warrior of necessity. And it all began with her childhood.

A picture of singer Joni Mitchell and her daughter | Photo: youtube.com/Scottf929 Getty Images

A picture of singer Joni Mitchell and her daughter | Photo: youtube.com/Scottf929 Getty Images



Joni was born the only child of Bill, a grocer, and Myrtle Anderson, a housewife. She was an intelligent young child who could recall how poorly they lived.

In fact, one of her first memories of her family was how they could only afford to buy her a box of eight Crayola crayons when she wanted the one that contained all 24 colors, especially magenta, turquoise, silver, and gold.


Her childhood was a difficult one but the things she endured prepared her for life. She caught plenty of diseases as a young child; however, her parents did not pamper her; they left her to fight her battles and fight she did. She once said:

"I had to become a warrior. I had to give up hope and find a substitute for hope that would be far more stable."


Joni found stability in her music; she studied piano for a short time in her childhood, moved to a ukulele at age 14, and later got herself a guitar which she used to make her debut in 1962.

She knew what she wanted for herself, but she also had to contend with her mother, who wanted to control her because her own life did not turn out the way she desired.



Joni got pregnant in 1964 after falling in love with a local Canadian boy named Brad McGrath, who later ran off to California upon learning of the baby. Afraid of what her family would think, Joni moved to Toronto.

She was directed to Los Angeles after a phone call with Joni's manager, and she went with her 4-year-old son, Marlin.

By 1965 she was a broke, unwed woman with a child — lost in a time when single mothers were scorned. She welcomed the child in a hospital where she once revealed that they bound the breast of unwed mothers to prevent milk from emerging.


However, Joni knew she could not keep the baby. Birth complications kept her grounded in the hospital an extra ten days — it also gave her time to hold her baby, Kelly Dale Anderson, and make her confessions:

"I kept trying to find some kind of circumstance where I could stay with her that wouldn't be malforming to her and to myself."

To that end, she hurriedly got into "a marriage of convenience" with American folk singer Chuck Mitchell. It was a union purely forged out of her desire to give her baby a home.


The union did not last long because it was built on a shaky foundation, and she was getting pressured by adoption agencies who warned that the later it got, the harder it would be to place her child in a suitable home.

In her second month as a wife, she signed her child away. It was too late, however, as she had bonded with the baby, and her action haunted her. She worried about Kelly's health in the years that followed, wondering if her bones were strong enough.

Her marriage to Chuck ended two years after it went into effect. Joni felt he stifled her creativity; as an escape, she would often go out to drink coffee and write songs.


She remained in New York after the divorce, where her haunted past inspired her to write some of her best-known songs, including "Both Sides Now," "Chelsea Morning," and "The Circle Game."

Her work was recorded by artists like Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ian and Sylvia, and Judy Collins. However, it was David Crosby who produced her first album, "Song to a Seagull," as part of the deal with Reprise Records.

 David Crosby attends the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 | Photo: Getty Images

David Crosby attends the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 | Photo: Getty Images


Her music career skyrocketed after that, and in 1971 she released "Blue," her first album to sell more than a million copies.

It was a sensitive and brutally honest album that she found inspiration to make after drawing on everything in her life, including her decision to give up her child.

One of the tracks on the album, "Little Green," seemingly addressed the regret Joni lived with after she was forced to put her child up for adoption. "Blue" was an album so raw that Joni was criticized by some for her emotional honesty.



Joni later tried to find her daughter but had little luck. The search took on a whole new dimension after it became public knowledge that she had given a child up for adoption.

There were pretenders, but none convincing enough; and in the end, Joni's daughter found her, not the other way around. It turned out that her daughter Kilauren Gibb had also been searching for her birth mother. She also had a child, and she wanted to meet her natural parents.

She was directed to Los Angeles after a phone call with Joni's manager, and she went with her four-year-old son, Marlin. Joni found herself playing the role of grandma to him after receiving a blessing from Gibb.


The mother and daughter spent time together and discovered that they had a lot of similarities as well as differences, but as far as Joni is concerned, the end of the story counteracts the horror at the beginning.

These days, Joni mostly lives alone, painting and doing whatever else is best for her. It is a quiet life, one she deserves after the colorful one she's lived so far.

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