Judy Collins – “Both Sides Now”

“Both Sides, Now” is one of the best-known songs of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. First recorded by Judy Collins, it appeared on the US singles chart during the fall of 1968. The next year it was included on Mitchell’s album Clouds (which was named after a lyric from the song). It has since been recorded by dozens of artists, including Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Gang of Youths, Herbie Hancock, and Mitchell herself who 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.

Background – 

Mitchell is said to have written “Both Sides, Now” in March 1967, inspired by a passage in Henderson the Rain King, a 1959 novel by Saul Bellow.

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. 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.

However, “Both Sides, Now” appears on the album Joni Mitchell: Live at the Second Fret 1966 (2014, All Access Records, AACD0120), a live performance on November 17, 1966, from The Second Fret in Philadelphia, PA, which was broadcast live by WRTI, Temple University’s radio station. This suggests that Mitchell wrote the song before March 1967.

“Both Sides, Now” is written in F-sharp major. Mitchell used a guitar tuning of E–B–E–G♯–B–E with a capo at the second fret. The song uses a modified I–IV–V chord progression.

2000 Re-recording

Mitchell re-recorded the song in a lush, orchestrated fashion for her 2000 album Both Sides Now. The recording won arranger Vince Mendoza a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).

In April 2000, two months after the album’s release, Mitchell sang the song with a 70-piece orchestra at the end of an all-star celebration for her at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.

The 2000 version is played during an emotional scene featuring Emma Thompson in the 2003 film Love Actually. It was also played during the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

Shortly after Mitchell wrote the song, Judy Collins recorded the first commercially released version for her 1967 Wildflowers album. In October 1968 the same version was released as a single, reaching number 8 on the U.S pop singles charts by December. It reached number 6 in Canada. In early 1969 it won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance. The record peaked at number 3 on Billboards Easy Listening survey and “Both Sides, Now” has become one of Collins’ signature songs. Mitchell disliked Collins’ recording of the song, despite the publicity that its success generated for Mitchell’s own career. The Collins version is featured as the opening title music of the 2014 romantic comedy And So It Goes, and as the end title music of the 2018 supernatural horror film Hereditary. It also features in the first teaser trailer for Toy Story 4. The song features prominently in the season 6 finale of the TV show Mad Men and signals a moment of anagnorisis between Don Draper and his daughter Sally.

Song Lyrics – 

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

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

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

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

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

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

Written by: Joni Mitchell

Credit: AZ Lyrics.com

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