"Both Sides Now" as written by and 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

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
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

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

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

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

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life 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


Lyrics submitted by lemuel

"Both Sides, Now" as written by Joni Mitchell

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Joni Mitchell/Crazy Crow Music/Siquomb Music

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Both Sides Now song meanings
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68 Comments

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  • +7
    General CommentTo me, both sides now isn't so much a coming of age song. If it were, it would mean that the author's point of view evolved from one earlier naive state to a more enlightened state through experience. In other words, it would mean that the protagonist used to see clouds & love as beautiful, and after subsequent experiences saw them in a different & more realistic light. While the coming of age/changing perspective thing is the subject of the verses; the chorus goes beyond that by adding that although she has seen things for what they really are, she continues to choose illusion over reality.

    I think both sides now is a song about illusion versus reality from the point of view of a dreamer. Even when experience teaches the true nature of something, the dreamer can continue to live with their illusions about life and love. The dreamer seems doomed to repeat the same mistakes by choosing to sugar coat the true nature of life and love with their own romantic illusionment. Even this has a duality: you can look at it as being hopeful or unrealistic.
    mickzzzzzzon March 15, 2006   Link
  • +4
    General CommentJoni is trying to say that she's learned there is no correct answer. Love, and Life are to big and meaningful to be summed up by anything. We'll never understand everything there is to know the things that motivate us. You can be and idealist, or you can be a cynic, but you're silly if you think you understand it all.

    We're all going to live, and we're all going to love. It's going to feel wonderful, and it's going to hurt. But it's the human condition, afterall.
    itsALLprogramMUSICon February 16, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentTo me, it's looking back at your life. From the way you looked at clouds as a child, your first love, and finally you whole life.

    There are always new ways to see things, and no matter how many different ways your perception changes, you still lose and gain from the experience. And sooner or later find you don't, and can't, have all the answers.
    Otteron April 10, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti love the contrast between the upbeat lighter version written when she was younger and the recent version--slow, heavy, deeper, harder. "both sides now" i think though means the good and the bad—she doesn't discount her experiences from when she was young as any less realistic than her adulthood--but she grew up and simply has more experience. she thought that by growing up you would learn more, but really life just becomes more illusive as you gain experience. she's been through it all. and you can really hear that in the second version.
    erintricklestooon May 05, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI absolutely love this song.
    To me, it's about how your perception changes, as life's realities shatter the optimistic illusions you have when you start out.
    It's a lament to be sure, but the thing I love about it, is the conclusion of optimism - "and still somehow, it's life's illusions I recall". It signifies that although you might be wiser and no longer deceived - seeing things as they truly are, it's actually the lovely illusion that sticks with you in your memory and your heart. Like the way you felt when you were a child and saw wonderful shapes in the clouds, or the dizzy feeling of falling in love.
    "I really don't know clouds/love/life" speaks about being wiser - the old addage is that the beginning of wisdom is when you come to understand just how much you DON'T know about things, rather than believing that you do.
    AmigoMarlzon May 28, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is deeper than most realize. I think mickzzzzzz's post from 06 is closer than most. He touches on the fact that a major theme of the song is duality.

    The way that the song progresses from specific to general (clouds - love - life) is incredible and classic. It's got metaphors interlocking on several narrative levels. This is reflected in the poetic structure as well, with extensive use of rhyme and parallel construction. Its balance of abstract imagery (verses) and narrative voice (refrains) is peerless.

    One theme no one else has mentioned is the theme of memory. Memory helps construct our perception, cognition, and consciousness: how we understand the world. In the same sense that it is not possible to objectively "own" an object or person, perhaps it is also impossible to truly "know" anyone or anything.

    So, in "recalling" clouds, love, or life, it is merely the memory we have -- an idea, an "illusion" really. Life is too complex to break down into simple, real bits. We live in a shadow world of memories and thoughts. The real only happens in the present. Thanks, Joni.
    gabrieldvineon August 25, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is wondeful. It describes life's greatness and disappointments. I think that it really tells us to look at things from both sides before you come to a conclusion, or that things which seem perfect at first may not be as glorious as they seem. It's good to be naive though, even if the consequences are dire.
    Char :)on July 09, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat a beautiful song! In my opinion she is talking about how your view of things change after you experience things. Before you experience something you have an opinion and after your experience you find that it is something different. For example, when she speaks of love she hints at fairy tales as love is mostly expressed but no one tells you of heartache, insecurity, insane jealousy and rejection. After which you don't know whether to long for love or to say love don't live here anymore! Hint "love illusions"
    walt2891on January 12, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love this song.
    I think it means that even after years of experience, of heartbreak, and of learning from mistakes, noone can have everything "figured out." Throughout our entire lives we're waiting for that moment of enlightenment, but we just have to keep living, and keep experiencing, because our outlooks on life and love are always going to change, and are always going to fluctuate from positive to negative. Its a very mellow song, and it can either be taken as sad or inspirational. I take it as inspirational, because when you feel lost and confused its comforting to know that even people who seem to have everything figured out are going to hit low points. Its just human nature.
    amarandon August 22, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentlisten to the clouds album version and then the dreamland album version back to back... it's amazing. the clouds version is so young and hopeful, while the dreamland version sounds sad. on clouds, she's a young girl who doesn't really know about life and love, but she'll probably figure it out. on dreamland, she's older, but realizing that she's not any wiser. her voice is just beautiful.
    ebw910on November 18, 2007   Link

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