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Why the Re-Recorded Version of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” Hits Even Harder Print-ready version

by Alex Hopper
American Songwriter
February 5, 2024

Joni Mitchell first released "Both Sides Now" in 1969, only after another artist (Judy Collins) had released her version. Despite being a second recording, it became one of Mitchell's signature songs - likely because it captures the essence of Mitchell's songwriting.

As mentioned at the 2024 GRAMMY Awards by Brandi Carlile, Mitchell has never been afraid to strip down to her barest parts. Her songs are cut straight from her soul and released into the world like truth bombs that reverberate inside the listener.

The '60s version of the song saw a 21-year-old Mitchell write some of the most introspective and existential lyrics ever. It seems almost impossible that a 20-something would have as much perspective on life as she displayed in this song.

But now it's just another show
And 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 that I recall
I really don't know love
Really don't know love at all

The verses cycle through clouds, love, and life - three things Mitchell says she really doesn't know at all. The resonance of this song spans far and wide. Do any of us know the truth behind those ideas? Likely not. We're all searching for answers. Mitchell cuts us off at the pass with this song, puts a hand on our shoulder, and tells us we will never find them, but it will be alright nevertheless.

The original version of this song is stellar. Mitchell's lulling vocals are in full swing. But, it's the 2000 re-recording of "Both Sides Now" that truly breaks the heart.

Years later, Mitchell decided to take another swing at this song. The second time around, she adopted a lush orchestral arrangement. Any hope of not shedding a tear to this song is lost. The sweeping musicality is enough to elicit a strong emotional response in the listener, but it's really Mitchell's delivery that issues the final blow.

Now in her 50s, Mitchell had much more life experience than she did at 21. The perspective she leads with on the original version of the song is made all the more poignant when sung by an older and wiser Mitchell.

It's almost heartbreaking. Decades have passed and Mitchell still doesn't have the answers to those lofty questions. It leaves little hope for us to find our own. Nevertheless, she still offers that sonic assuage, holding our hands through the realization: I really don't know life at all.

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Added to Library on February 6, 2024. (877)

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