Both sides now
Reflecting on how I’ve experienced the transition (occasionally the seismic shift!) from youth to, and through, middle age, I’ve found it illuminating to listen to Joni Mitchell singing her own heartfelt song of love, life and loss, “Both sides now” in two versions recorded nearly thirty years apart. Written and recorded first in 1969 when Mitchell was 26, she re-recorded it in 2000. The lyrics show remarkable insight to have been written by someone so young yet her performance in the early version seems to skim over the surface of the very words she penned.
Something's gained, something's lost
In the later version (recorded when she was approaching 60), the song takes on a whole new aspect. Her voice, soaring over a shifting and ambiguous orchestration, draws out the ambiguity, ambivalence, sense of loss and hope unique to later life. Maybe it takes until later in life to know and communicate that we’ve looked at life from “both sides now”, from win and lose and to know that “something’s gained and something’s lost in living every day”. And to know that that’s OK. [Performances of both versions can be found on YouTube, 1970 and 2000]