Sunday Sing Along - Both Sides Now

A darker, less innocent take on a classic song of reflection and wonder.

In 1967, a very young aspiring singer-songwriter by the name of Joni Mitchell was on an airplane, reading a book, Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow, in which the protagonist was looking out the window of a plane at some clouds. Mitchell put down the book and also looked out the window, saw some clouds, and wrote "Both Sides Now."

Folk singer Judy Collins made it a hit shortly thereafter, and Mitchell released her own version on her debut album in 1969. She became, in her subsequently stellar career, an iconic figure in music and in the culture. Mitchell's songs and persona showed women how to be fearless and independent, but still playful and charming. She broke a lot of rules, both musical and social, and was every bit as notorious in her love life as her male counterparts in rock and roll.

But people love Joni for her vulnerability, the ever-present ache in her voice. Her early albums are masterful, tributes to love, wonder and loss. Her later works are fearless ventures into sonic jazz landscapes and sharp, eyes-open lyrics. Though she fell out of mainstream adoration, she never lost her courage or her devotion to her personal vision.

Then she just fell off the map. She stopped writing and producing albums, and focused instead on her painting, which was always her first love. But finally, in 2000, she made an album of standards. The one original song was "Both Sides Now." Her voice was shocking--the years of two-packs-a-day smoking habit was on full display. It was much deeper now, much less the naughty school girl and more like the weary traveler.

But it retains an element of wistfulness that still speaks to the child in all of us, the wide-eyed innocent one that sees the magic of a cloud, who wrestles with the adult who knows better, who knows that what appears to be magic is just a trick of the light. . . this song says that both are wrong, both are right.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Chris Kapsalis January 14, 2013 at 07:39 AM
Maybe. Maybe life is a dream in the night while we sleep in another much higher and larger life and when we die we wake up in the morning in another world and life?
Dive Turn Work January 14, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Actually we are all just living inside a snow globe owned by an autistic child. Go St. Elsewhere.
Nancy Rowe January 14, 2013 at 06:06 PM
This is brilliant... Joni in a major, mature re-do on Life's give & take, thru her own poetic masterpiece. While I'm not a fan of synth strings (think I've heard enough of 'em) this music track is dynamic & emotionally fulfilling... it soars, quiets & satisfies like sublime stage piece... full synth orchestra in masterful interpretation. thanks for posting, Jim.
cat January 15, 2013 at 01:50 AM
WOW i remember singing this song in 4th grade CHOIR. I was just a kid and didnt know the ramifications of it--the late 60s onward were a crazy time and its almost 'over' with the fiscal cliff
Redmond O Colonies January 17, 2013 at 04:55 PM
I saw Joni at the Pavilion in about 03 with her orchestra promoting the album. It was one of the best concerts of my life. Anyone who moves me to tears with poetry and music ( A Case of You and Both Sides Now ) wins my devotion. It was her orchestra that toured with her hence not 'synth'


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