"Both Sides, Now" is one of the best-known songs of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. First recorded by Judy Collins, it appeared on the U.S. singles chart during the fall of 1968. The next year it was included on Mitchell's album Clouds (which was named after a lyric from the song). It has since been covered by dozens of artists, including Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson and Herbie Hancock. Mitchell herself re-rerecorded the song, with an orchestral arrangement, on her 2000 album Both Sides Now.
I was reading Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King on a plane and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He's on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.
"Both Sides, Now" is written in F-sharp major. Mitchell used a guitar tuning of E–B–E–G♯–B–E with a capo at the second fret. The song uses a modified I–IV–V chord progression.
Shortly after Mitchell wrote the song, Judy Collins recorded the first commercially released version for her 1967 Wildflowers album. In October 1968 the same version was released as a single, reaching #8 on the U.S. pop singles charts by December. It reached #6 in Canada. In early 1969 it won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance. The record peaked at #3 on Billboard's Easy Listening survey and "Both Sides, Now" has become one of Collins' signature songs. Mitchell disliked Collins' recording of the song, despite the publicity that its success generated for Mitchell's own career.
b-flower recorded the song for their 1994 album Clover Chronicles l.
Dianne Reeves recorded the song for her 1994 album Quiet After the Storm.
Parasites recorded the song for their 1994 album Pair.
Randy Scruggs recorded an instrumental version of the song on his 1998 album Crown of Jewels.
Sharon Cuneta recorded the song for her 1999 album When I Love, and it was released as the album's lead-off single. The song was subsequently used as the theme for her 2002 movie, Magkapatid (Siblings).
A version of the song is featured in the film Life as a House (2001) in the climax of the film during which George Monroe, played by Kevin Kline and ex-wife Robin, played by Kristin Scott-Thomas dance on the deck of George's unfinished cliffside home.
^Bellow, Saul (1985). Henderson the Rain King. Penguin Books. p. 280. ISBN0-14-007269-1. We are the first generation to see the clouds from both sides. .. more likely "And I dreamed down at the clouds, and thought that when I was a kid I had dreamed up at them, and having dreamed at the clouds from both sides as no other generation of men has done, one should be able to accept his death very easily." Chapter 5 para 7.
^Whitesell, Lloyd (2008). The Music of Joni Mitchell. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 43–44.