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Joni Mitchell and ‘Both Sides Now’ Live at The Newport Folk Festival: VIDEO

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

They say great music never goes out of style or grows old.  Occasionally we are reminded of just how true that is like at last weekend’s Newport Folk Festival. During Brandi Carlile’s set, Joni Mitchell performed in public for the first time in nine years.

If you don’t know who Joni Mitchell is it’s ok.  The “folk music era” a little before my time too, but I heard her records played at home.  While I was way too young to understand the meaning, concepts, and messages in her music, the songs were no less enchanting.  One in particular “Both Sides Now,” I found endlessly captivating for reasons I still don’t fully understand even today, but that’s what great music does.

“Both Sides Now” has become a recurring refrain in my life.  In high school when I earned a place in the Mixed Ensemble, one of the first songs added to our repertoire was “Both Sides Now.”  Years later when I came out as a gay man, two verses I had sung so often took on a whole new meaning for me.

“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

Oh, but now old friends they’re acting strange
And they shake their heads and they tell me that I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day”

And today, I’ve lived enough to see both sides now, and I really don’t know life at all.

It takes a remarkable song to travel with you like that; but then again, Joni Mitchell is remarkable woman and artist.  At a time in the recording industry when it’s more about hyping anticipation of an album drop, gen-whatever passing off whining as singing, and retread Korean boybands, Joni Mitchell need only perform to enrapture and profoundly move an audience with song.  That’s called talent, that’s called making music.


(main image: screen grab)

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