Making It To The Other Side, by Rich Paschall

Most generations seem to believe that the music of their youth was the best. Perhaps it is because we associate music with important times in our lives, that is dances, proms, graduations, weddings, and so on. You can likely recall the music hits from your teens and twenties decades after you first heard them. Radio stations and streaming services keep the music alive in our memories. How many times did you go to youtube to find an old music performance?

The mid-1960s to mid-1970s was a great time for singer-songwriters, at least it was in my memory. Carole King, Gordon Lightfoot, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Roger Miller, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell just to name a few. If you “Google” singer-songwriter lists I am certain you will find many more familiar names. It was an important time in music.

Joni Mitchell

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

Joni Mitchell was writing songs and playing coffeehouses in the mid-60s. Judy Collins recorded Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now,” for her 1967 album Wildflowers. It was released the following year as a single and climbed the Billboard Hot 100 to number 8. Mitchell included it on her 1969 album Clouds.

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

Joni Mitchell had a long and successful career in concerts and recordings. Seemingly it had already come to an end. She had not given a full-length concert since the year 2000. In March of 2015, she was found unconscious at her home, having suffered a brain aneurism. It robbed her of her ability to talk and walk. Recovery from such a thing is slow and difficult. Dr. Anthony Wang, a neurosurgeon at Ronald Reagan UCLA Hospital stated, “playing an instrument and vocal cord coordination, those sorts of things, are really, super complex fine movements that would take a long time to relearn.”

She said she got her speech back rather quickly but still struggles with walking. It is not the first time she had to relearn walking. She suffered from polio at age nine. In recent years it was not clear how well her recovery had gone. There were reports of “Joni Jams” in her living room by well know artists and friends, but was she really taking part in any of them?

Believing that she could recreate the Joni Jam at the Newport Folk Festival, Brandi Carlile told the head of the festival, Jay Sweet, in 2021 that she thought she could bring Mitchell to the festival in 2022. He thought it unlikely. According to Rolling Stone, Sweet told Carlile, “You are the manifester of miracles, but you may have overshot on this one.” Recovery to the point of walking out on stage, not to mention singing and playing an instrument, seemed an impossible dream.

Carlile’s time at the 2022 Folk Festival was advertised as “Brandi Carlile and Friends.” Only Brandi, the head of the Festival, and then her fellow performers knew of Carlile’s plan. She discussed it all with them in advance. Meanwhile, Mitchell was in the process of relearning everything. She stated she even had to relearn getting out of a chair.

As for playing guitar, she had not done that in public since she was 55. At 78 it seemed improbable she would play again. She had to watch herself in music videos to recall how she did it. No one knew if she would actually show up to turn Brandi’s time into a Joni Jam, but she came; she rehearsed; she conquered. When Brandi took the stage she was there to introduce a performer who had not been there since 1969. With some help, Joni Mitchell stunned the Newport audience and walked out to play a full set for the crowd. Seated in a semi-circle were Joni and her friends. Carlile’s job was master of ceremonies, ready to jump into the fray if needed. Joni held her own. Mitchell even stood to play guitar on “Just Like This Train,” which appeared on her 1974 album Court and Spark.

Reviewers have given high marks to Mitchell’s new interpretation of Both Sides Now. It is a rendering only age and experience can bring.

“Aging inherently brings suffering, debilitation, and loss — this is not news. What Mitchell’s 2022 performance of the song asserted was that it can also bring serendipity, long-delayed gratification, and joy.” – Lindsay Zoladz, The New York Times

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

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

Sources Include: “Joni Mitchell Reclaims Her Voice at Newport,” by Lindsay Zoladz, The New York Times, July 26, 2022.
Both Sides Now,” by Joni Mitchell, © June 19, 1967
Here’s why Joni Mitchell’s performance at the Newport Folk Festival is so incredible,” by Vanessa Romo, July 26, 2022.
“‘She Schooled Us All’: Inside Joni Mitchell’s Stunning Return to Newport Folk Festival,” by Jonathan Bernstein, July 28, 2022.

Categories: Entertainment, Music, Rich Paschall

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18 replies

  1. I have so much to say about this I could write a book.
    Thank you for all this … much of which I didn’t know.
    She has always been a special person … especially ro me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m from the era of music too and she was always one of my favorites..I truly believe that era was the height of contentment music. Nothing much today comes close…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, my gosh…this is amazing. I had heard about it but love the way you’ve given details!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Joni Mitchell’s music. Not only her early music, though that’s my favorite, but later music too. She also did a lot of music for various television shows.

    I don’t think we love the music of our youth entirely because of the memories it brings. I also think the music was actually BETTER. It was creative. It was thoughtful. There are some good voices and musicians working now, but the music of my parents and my generation was exceptional. Music isn’t always equally good. At least in “pop music,” there is very little original music and what they are calling “original” is often kind of bad. The singers can’t stay on pitch, half the musicians are off-beat.

    Even with the electronics designed to repair problems in recorded music, it’s obvious the music is nothing new. Many of the musicians are pathetic. It doesn’t mean ALL current musicians are bad. There are some brilliant ones, too, but the bad ones outnumber the good ones by a lot.

    Creativity in music has never been a constant. There are periods of exceptional creativity and longer periods of endless repetition of the same stuff, but not as good as the originals. We’re in one of those periods. At some point, we’ll snap out of it. It’s pretty much an “every other generation” phenomenom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are a handful of good songs out there now, but not a Top 40 worth of music. We listened faithfully to the Top 40 countdown each Friday on WLS AM (the BIG 89) and loved almost all of it each week. It was not unusual for us to be at the record store on Friday to pick up the Silver Dollar Survey, aka Top 40. It really was a great time for singer-songwriters. They did not have autotune and their lyrics were a lot better than grade school rhymes…just saying!


      • I think we’ll have “good old days” come around again. Music does have cycles. The 60s and early 70s were a really significant period in music development as were the late 30s, 1940s, and 1950s. Lots of new developments in music and not just in pop music. Also in Jazz and pop — even classical was buzzing back then. Now, we’re sort of in a retreat period. There are some good performers, but there no serious musical development going on. There will be. As long as there are music lovers, there will be more and better music.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I hope it comes real soon. Chicago just did “Chicago XXXVIII.” I have been meaning to listen to more than the one that getting some play. I hear this is a good one, new producer, new record company, even some song contributions from outside the group.


  5. I’ m so glad you shared this. I found it on Instagram and it brought tears to my eyes….Joni Mitchell is a legend and a tough one at that. Her music and voice has always moved me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is an interesting comeback story. Newport Folk Festival has posted the individual songs to YouTube.


      • The last time (for me, the only time) we were at Newport was when Linda Ronstadt gave her last concert. We didn’t know it was her last concert, but it made the event even more special.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The other surprise performance this year was the night before when a semi-retired Paul Simon made his first, and likely only appearance at the Festival. This would have been a great year to be there.


          • Newport Folk has always been a really wonderful festival. So many great singers made their first “big” appearance there. And of course, when Pete Seeger was managing it, it was a true folk festival. It’s gotten a little more mixed in recent years, but I think it’s still the top festival of its kind, at least on this continent.

            Liked by 1 person

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