Over the Christmas period I watched the romantic comedy “Love Actually“. As romantic comedies go it is very well written, probably because it is by Richard Curtis, who also wrote (amongst other films) “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Notting Hill“. He also co-wrote “Blackadder“, one of my favourite TV comedies.
In Love Actually Harry (played by Alan Rickman) buys his wife Karen (played by Emma Thompson) a Joni Mitchell CD, namely “Both Sides Now“. On this CD, recorded in the year 2000, is a new recording of her song “Both Sides Now“, a song she wrote in 1967 when only 24 years old, and which was originally released as a single in 1968. I had not heard the year 2000 version until watching this film, but I had always been a big fan of her original version.
To quote part of the song:
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
Oh 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.
These seem very mature lyrics for a woman of only 24 years to write. But even by this relatively young age, Mitchell had seen quite a bit of life. In the autumn of 1964, when only 21 years old, she discovered she was pregnant by her ex-boyfriend. The ex-boyfriend had left her, in her own words “[he] left me three months pregnant in an attic room with no money and winter coming on and only a fireplace for heat.”
Upon giving birth to a baby girl in February 1965, she gave the baby up for adoption, and did not see her child again until 1997. A few months after giving birth she met Chuck Mitchell in a club in Toronto, and within weeks they were married. By early 1967 they were divorced. So, even by the time of writing this song, Mitchell had experienced quite a bit of life and love.
Here is the original version.
I must say, when I heard the year 2000 version I actually preferred it. I was struck by its greater depth and sadness, and of course how much Joni Mitchell’s voice had changed in the intervening 30 years (probably mainly due to her smoking). Because of the nature of the lyrics, I feel her singing it as a 57 year old rather than a 24 year old carries more depth and more experience of the melancholy and longing expressed in the lyrics.
Here is the year 2000 version.
Which version do you prefer?