Written in 1967 and inspired by a passage from the book Henderson The Rain King by Saul Bellow, Both Sides Now was an international hit for Judy Collins, who recorded the song in 1968 and won a Grammy Award later the same year for ‘Best Female Folk Performance.’
With its soul-searching, Zen-like lyricism and gentle melody, Both Sides Now is a meditation on fantasy and reality, each verse being divided into both a naive and an experienced way of looking at clouds, love and life.
The song is about childhood’s end. It’s about shedding the fairytales of Disney and facing the world as a realist. It isn’t the voice of hope nor is it the voice of resignation. It is an attempt to find a way of conducting oneself in a world becoming increasingly violent and perverse.
Judy Collins has said, “Joni came down from Canada to add the poetic lustre of her songs to our musical lives. Joni’s songs are delicate and feminine and strong…like she is.” Collins told Mitchell, “You can break my heart anytime you like. Just open your mouth and sing.”