Song Lyric Sunday — Both Sides, Now

For today’s Song Lyric Sunday prompt, Jim Adams gave us “breeze,” “cloud,” “sky,” and “wind” for the theme words. For me, it was a toss up between Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now.” I’m a fan of both artists, but I really love Joni Mitchell, so I decided to go with “Both Sides, Now.”

“Both Sides, Now” was the first hit song written by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. It was first recorded by Judy Collins and her version appeared on the U.S. singles chart during the fall of 1968. The next year it was included on Mitchell’s own album, Clouds, which was named after a lyric from the song, “I’ve looked at clouds from 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.

Joni Mitchell said the song came to her while she was reading Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King on a plane. “Early in the book,” Mitchell said, “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.”

Joni Mitchell had been through a very difficult time when she wrote this song’s lyric. In 1965, she gave birth to a baby girl, but after the baby’s father, an old boyfriend, left her soon after she got pregnant, Mitchell struggled as a single mom. She married a musician named Chuck Mitchell that year, but shortly after the marriage, she gave up the child for adoption. Soon, her marriage was on the rocks, and in 1967 they split up.

Mitchell described the song as a meditation on reality and fantasy, “an idea that was so big it seemed like I’d just scratched the surface of it.” Like Neil Young’s song, “Sugar Mountain,” which Mitchell answered with “The Circle Game,” “Both Sides, Now” ruminates on the subject of lost youth. At first it’s a meditation on clouds, the whimsical way a child sees them, as “ice-cream castles in the air,” but there are two sides to everything, and as we mature, we stop seeing clouds for their simple beauty, but as a sign of rain or bad weather.

Here are the lyrics for “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

If you’re interested, here’s the song sung by Judy Collins.

20 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Both Sides, Now

  1. SadiRose February 28, 2021 / 3:17 am

    Another wonderful song. Such a pretty voice

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine Bolton, Poetry for Healing February 28, 2021 / 4:15 am

    Ah yes … Ice cream castles in the air … what beautiful lyrics this song has! I loved the inspiration for the song but was not aware of her struggles at that time. Great write up and a perfect song! ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. newepicauthor February 28, 2021 / 6:40 am

    I can remember being a kid and sprawling out on the ground in the grass and looking up at the clouds as they floated by, but I never saw and ice cream castles or flowing angel hair, however I have always been fascinated by clouds. I don’t think that anyone ever really knows life, because it is constantly changing just like the clouds. Great pick Fandango.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 28, 2021 / 11:02 pm

      I’m glad you liked it, Jim. When my kids were younger we would go to the park and watch the clouds go by and we’d each take turns describing what we thought the clouds looked like.

      Liked by 1 person

      • newepicauthor March 1, 2021 / 5:34 am

        I have a section in my second book where these kids are looking at the clouds and saying what the see in them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fandango March 1, 2021 / 10:06 am

          You obviously stole that idea from me. My lawyer will be contacting your lawyer forthwith.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Maggie February 28, 2021 / 7:32 am

    I love this song but never knew the back story. The context makes the song even more powerful. Thanks for featuring it today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 28, 2021 / 11:02 pm

      It’s always fun to learn the story behind the writing of the songs.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Vinny February 28, 2021 / 9:03 am

    Brilliant. Such s great song and those lyrics…. fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lisa Coleman February 28, 2021 / 10:09 am

    Perfect weather song. Her description of clouds is so perfect! Thanks for another great share! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. J-Dub February 28, 2021 / 10:34 am

    I was sure hoping someone would pick this song today. Excellent choice for the prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. leigha66 March 4, 2021 / 12:23 am

    I was not familiar with the title of the song, but when it came to both videos and the lyrics, I did after all know the song. Great choice!

    Liked by 1 person

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