Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
Looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and they 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 that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
And 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 that I recall
I really don't know love
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 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

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

It's life's illusions that I recall
I really don't know life
I really don't know life at all

Lyrics submitted by lemuel, edited by dave94703, vaguely, iruinsongsssss

Both Sides Now Lyrics as written by Joni Mitchell

Lyrics © Kanjian Music

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Both Sides Now song meanings
Add Your Thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +15
    General Comment
    To 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 16, 2006   Link
  • +8
    General Comment
    Joni 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
  • +7
    General Comment
    I 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
  • +3
    General Comment
    To 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
  • +3
    General Comment
    Joni is a magician. Absolute magic. What is true in small things, she finds parallels to bigger things. In "Big Yellow Taxi", she links the loss of the environment and pesticides to her personal loss of her boyfriend who's left in a big yellow taxi. Here, she draws a parallel between the innocence of youth in cloud-watching, the innocence of that first love, and draws it to her personal experience of life in totality: seeing both sides - anxious anticipation to wistful regret. I agree with comments about the magic of her early version - still anxious and anticipating, cheery and upbeat - versus the absolutely powerful and amazing remastered version...the wisdom of age, and looking back at life from "win and lose" and still somehow it's still the illusions we recall. Magic.
    u91746on August 06, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General Comment
    This 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
  • +2
    General Comment
    i 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 Comment
    We all have hopes, wishes, and dreams. There’s a saying that everything that ends ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t have ended. Most things are a mixed bag of good and bad. As we go through this life, we pursue the good. When young and innocent, we believe in fairy tales. That wispy clouds, beautiful, that help block out the sun, are just pretty little things, failing to realize, they’re here one minute, gone the next. Or that they bring rain, or block out the sun, when the sun is what we need. That love is a fairy tale, and when we find it we’ll live happily ever after. That all you need is love, and your person will be everything you dreamed of, forever and always. Love and passion, a person always there for you, will never let you down or disappoint you. Only as you go through it, and experience it, you find that’s not really what love is all about. However wonderful the love is to start, the heights of what you feel with that person will wane. Reality will come along, as pure benevolence can’t last forever. That which is new, is not new forever. The joy of that new connection is difficult or impossible to sustain. That when we are not while ourselves, we can fall in the trap of finding someone to complete us. Only, once we’re made complete or they are, it’s not the same. And if you are complete yourself, 1+1 = 3 is not nearly as fulfilling as 1/2 + 1/2 = 1. So what is love? And then of life? We pursue what we think we want out of life. We get some of it, or all of it through struggles, sormetiimes from sacrifice, patience, hard work. Lucky, unlucky. And in the end, when we realize some of our hopes and dreams, why was it really for? Does it truly make us happy. Is it instead the journey, and not the destination? If so, then what is life really about? Love? Clouds? God Love Joni Mitchell. Thank you for this gift.
    EDawg22on November 13, 2021   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    This song means that there are certain things in life you can never learn about from a book or from other people, like this song suggests, life and love, you have to experience them, because they are different for every person. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to these fragile subjects.
    luckylexi7on June 04, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    This 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

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

More Featured Meanings

Album art
Another Love
Tom Odell
I think the meaning is pretty clear. This person got really burned in a previous relationship, and because of this is unable to love and show care in his present one, even though he so badly wants to. It's lovely song, and very sad. You can really feel how defeated and frustrated he is with himself.
Album art
X French T-Shirt
Shudder to Think
This song is timeless, and nearly 20 years after its creation, still possesses the mystique it did the first time i heard it ~1994. To me, at first blush, all those years ago, it had some kind of homo-erotic allure. The line "so that the others may do" tells of something which must be done for others to follow suit. It felt like like some kind of roxy-glam-pop invitation to sexual liberation. Upon further introspection I think the song may not have an intrinsic meaning, but simply represents a sort of "holding open the door" for people who otherwise might be affronted by this song/band's unusual style. I know, as a sort of armchair rock-historian, that there have been few bands so daring and so true to the sound that wanted to emerge from within, whether the creator wanted it or not. This band handled it with elegance and grace seldom, if ever, seen.
Album art
Blank Space
Taylor Swift
This song is Swift's response to the negative reputation the media has given her. "I can make the bad guys good for a weekend" - the bad guys are the paparazzi to Swift, but are good to the "player" since association with Swift immediately gives publicity. Any publicity is good publicity and Swift knows this. "You can tell me when it's over" - the tabloids rumor relationships are over before the couple announces it officially. With this song Swift is portraying the way she is portrayed by the media. It is a sarcastic jab at how she views herself and how her "ex-lovers" only wanted to be with her to increase their fame. I applaud the brilliance in writing about how you always write about relationships. It is expected so Swift is giving the media what they want and profiting off the attention.
Album art
Alma Matters
The man has pseudo-friends who constantly criticize his actions. They moralize him, "teach" him and advise him to make a significant change in his life, because the way he is and what he does is not what they say it should be. They may find his life lame or immoral. They hold themselves up as role models. The man replies that he will make his own choices and decisions and he does not agree to unconditionally make himself under the influence of questionable quality advice. He justifies this by saying that there is always someone for whom he will be important, no matter what he does and no matter what he is. Although it is not said directly, I read it as meaning that he will always be important to himself in every way and he will always have his own support. "Everyone is different and maybe that's a good thing, but you exceeded that mark 1000 times" - I remember very well how sad the words I once heard (from my peers and it was in negative context) at school made me feel.
Album art
Keep My Name Outta Your Mouth
Black Keys, The
This standout track comes off the artiste's latest reissue titled "Brothers Deluxe Remastered 10th Anniversary Edition". The track was produced by Mark Neill, Patrick Carney & Dan Auerbach. It was released via major streaming platforms on December 18, 2020.