Song of the Day, October 24: Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

Joni_Mitchell-Both_Sides_NowToday’s song is Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell; she wrote it in 1967. Like many of her early compositions, it was recorded by other artists before she made her own version. Fairport Convention — early fans of her writing — recorded a demo in 1967. Judy Collins included perhaps the most famous cover on her 1967 album Wildflowers. She released it as a single, reaching #8 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the Easy Listening charts and winning the Grammy for Best Folk Performance. Mitchell included her first recording of the song on her 1969 album Clouds.

Mitchell was inspired to write the song while reading Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King on a plane ride.

early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. 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.

A wistful, deceptively simple song about the passage of time and the impact of aging on perception, Both Sides Now has become a standard. Rolling Stone ranked it #171 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs. It has been recorded by so many artists that its covers have their own Wikipedia section. Artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Leonard Nimoy, from Carly Rae Jepsen to Dolly Parton, have tried their hand at this wonderful song.

The Collins and Mitchell versions from the 60s are amazing and certainly lead the pack. The finest version, however, is Mitchell’s cover of herself. In 2000 she recorded the album Both Sides Now, mostly consisting of her take on some jazz standards. She included two of her own songs in new versions, A Case of You and the title track. While her older voice, literally smoky at this point, doesn’t work well with much of her earlier material, it’s a perfect fit for this song. At an age more fitting to the wistful reflections, Mitchell masters the song and reclaims it from decades of interpreters.

Enjoy this wonderful rendition of a classic song today.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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