Little Green

Joni Mitchell: Little Green

Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda

 Joni Mitchell and biological daughter, Kilauren Gibb.  Mitchell had adopted out her baby at birth, and they were reunited again when her daughter was an adult.  She is lyrically known as "Little Green."  

"There'll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow."

 "Like the nights when the northern lights perform."

"There'll be icicles"

"and birthday clothes."

"And sometimes there'll be sorrow."

artist:  Joni Mitchell

songwriter:  Joni Mitchell

date released:  1971 by Joni Mitchell

It doesn't take a stretch to guess the meaning behind these lyrics if one if familiar with Joni Mitchell's life.  A person who knows the loss of a child through any harsh twist of fate will relate to "Little Green."

In 1964, Joni Mitchell dropped out of the Alberta School of Art and boarded a train to Toronto where she integrated herself into the folk music scene.  She was all of 22 years old when she fell in love with a fellow painter, Brad McMath, and became pregnant. 

During those years, an unplanned pregnancy was a scourge on the mother, and Joni did what she could to hide her condition from her parents in Saskatchewan.  The line, "weary of lies you are sending home" is telling of the shame she bore.  She entered the "bad girls" (sic) trail and hid herself away.

Mitchell's lover abandoned her when she was three months pregnant in an attic room in Toronto. He left behind on the stairwell a doodle of a pregnant woman seated at a window looking at a crescent moon.  On the drawing he wrote:  "The thief left it behind, the moon at the window."  When interviewed many years later, Brad McMath stated:  "I was a bum, a hippie.  I wasn't ready for parenthood."  So the line goes: "Little Green, he's [your father] a non-conformer." 

On February 19, 1965, Roberta Joan Anderson [Joni Mitchell] gave birth to a baby girl she named Kelly Dale Anderson, "in the family name [Anderson]."  She nicknamed her baby, "Little Green."  

Penniless, her new state of motherhood posed some challenges.  She met a fellow folk singer, Chuck Mitchell, in a coffeehouse and married him.  Not surprising, theirs was not a marriage made in heaven.  Her husband was not interested in raising another man's child, so Joni made the heart-wrenching decision to adopt out Little Green to a foster famly.  In the notes of the adoption papers was written:  "Mother had very difficult time signing this."  It was not long after this life-altering event that Joni left her husband and headed to New York's Greenwich Village to rewrite her life.

Fast forward to March 13, 1997.  After a long search, Joni Mitchell was reunited with Little Green who was then, Kilauren Gibb.  Kilauren's adoptive parents had not told their daughter of her adopted status until she was twenty-seven years old. With her new discovery, Kilauren went to Canada's Children's Aid Society to search for her birth mother.  Both searches met in the middle and the rest is history. 

At the mother-child reunion, Kilauren Gibb was then a 33-year-old professional model residing in Toronto. Coincidentally, Joni Mitchell had also worked as a model in Toronto to augment her income from her singing career so many years earlier.  With uncanny prescience, Mitchell wrote in "The Circle Game": "we can't return, we can only look behind from where we came and go round and round and round in the circle game."  The circle had come around full.

When contacted after the mother-child reunion, the biological father was located.  Brad McMath had sired two children, one in marriage and the other out of wedlock.  Occasionally, the whole family gathers for what Joni Mitchell calls "a dysfunctional family" event.

In the last frame of the video, there is a photograph of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell together.  They had been romantically-linked in the early seventies, and their split was the final straw that sent Mitchell into her Blue Period of reclusion to a cabin on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.   

Some discographers have scribed that "A Case of You" was written by Mitchell to exorcise bitter feelings towards Leonard Cohen. 

Ever aware of the dangers of ascribing facts of an artist's life into song lyrics------a reporter of printed materials in the public domain I remain.   As a Canadian and fan of Joni Mitchell, I want to believe that it was the love of her native country that had her return to us [to her cabin in Halfmoon Bay on the Sunshine Coast] even if just for summers to paint and recharge.  O Canada.