Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now

Writing about clouds reminded me of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.”

Rows and flows 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

© 1967 Gandalf Publishing Co.

Joni introduces the song this way at the White Swan in Leicester, England on September 16, 1967. Interestingly, she gave the same introduction – word for word – on October 12, 1967 at the Second Fret in Philadelphia:

“This is a song that talks about sides to things. In most cases there are both sides to things and in a lot of cases there are more than just both. His and a hers. His and theirs. But in this song there are only two sides to things… there’s reality and I guess what you might call fantasy. There’s enchantment and dis-enchantment, what we’re taught to believe things are and what they really are.”

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9 thoughts on “Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now

  1. interesting thing about this song – way back in the day – when she sang it and all – it held one particular meaning to it – as most understood it – and it has only been years later – within the last 10 years I believe – that she has now publicly admitted that the song was truly not what people really believed it to be – in fact, this song is highly personal to her – it is about her daughter …

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    • That’s fascinating — I hadn’t heard that (or that she had a daughter back then). It makes the lyrics take on a whole new meaning.
      “Thanks,” she said, “for sharing that information. I need to re-listen to the lyrics with a mother-daughter relationship in mind.”

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  2. Wondeful post… this was always a favorite song of mine as a child, although back then I had no idea what it all meant, only that I loved the whimsiness of it and Joni’s voice. Years later, when I was in college, I heard this song on the radio and listened, really listened, and suddenly it was like I’d been hit by a falling star… the words made so much since to me. Thanks for bringing these memories to light for me today! Cheers!

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the time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things . . .

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