Both Sides, Now – Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell 1966

Joni Mitchell in 1966

The title of Joni Mitchell’s 1966 album ‘Clouds‘ comes from today’s song Both Sides Now. It is one of her most adored tracks and for good reason – it’s simply a classic. ‘The lyrics explore dualities ― “give and take,” “win and lose,” “up and down” ― the anthem has come to mean different things in different contexts. Universality is its appeal, and perhaps its curse: It can be melancholic or hopeful, sticky or sweet, a dreamer’s optimism or a realist’s heartache’.(1)

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all…..

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions that I recall
I really don’t know love
Really don’t know love at all

It’s also been popping up more in popular culture and been covered by a plethora of great artists including Frank Sinatra and Willy Nelson. ‘It has also soundtracked or provided fodder for umpteen films and TV classics, starting long before 2018: two episodes of “The Wonder Years,” “Sesame Street,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Life as a House,” “Love Actually,” the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, “Mad Men,” “Steve Jobs,” the 2017 Oscars’ “In Memoriam” segment’. (1)

Joni Mitchell said this about how the song came to be: “I was reading Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King on a plane, and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane,” Mitchell later explained. “He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.” 

Mitchell herself re-recorded the song, with an orchestral arrangement, on her 2000 album Both Sides Now. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “Both Sides Now” at number 170 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. (2)

1. The Agony And Ecstasy Of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now,’ – Huffpost
2. Both Sides, Now – wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music
16 comments on “Both Sides, Now – Joni Mitchell
  1. Nadine says:

    Wow I love this, thanks for sharing.

  2. badfinger20 says:

    Great writing…I like her voice in this one. Sometimes her voice can slide around too much for me…I like this one.

    • I agree, there are some songs where her voice jumps about too much and it feels overdone. Yes, I like her voice on this one too.

      • badfinger20 says:

        The phrase “vocal gymnastics” comes to mind. I will say though…she has a hell of a range with her voice. Great artist.

      • Yes, that’s a great expression. Some people love her for that part of her singing. I’m not one but I can see how it might be appealing. Yes she has an almighty range which has stayed pretty much the same all her career it seems. I think this is my favourite song of hers, but I don’t pretend I’m across a great deal of her discography.

        On another matter I hope you and your family are all safe and well away from that horrible virus starting to rear it’s ugly head.

      • badfinger20 says:

        We have a lot of people singing the National Anthem that loves to do those kind of vocals…I turn the channel.

        Thanks Matt…you also. It just popped up in our state so we will see how much it spreads.

      • Yes, I can’t stand when the National anthem is given a hip hop makeover.

        We have also got a few cases here. Let’s cross fingers and hope it can be contained. The Joe Rogan show yesterday had an infectious disease expert on. It was really informative.

  3. Thanks for reminding me what a beautiful piece of work this is. The singing, the playing, the lyrics. What an amazing combination. The words are very thought provoking. And, like you I guess, I also love her version on the 2000 album. I’m not normally a fan of artists covering their own work but Joni, of course, has exquisite taste. Brilliant.

    • It is beautiful isn’t it. I always feel very appreciative to read other people’s impression of the music presented here. I’m so glad it was such a wonderful reminder for you. I think I prefer her 2000 version over the original.

  4. Zippy says:

    Had fun writing a song/letter to Joni Mitchell I consider her the artist of the century

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