"Both Sides, Now" is a song by Joni Mitchell, and one of her best-known songs. First recorded by Judy Collins in 1967, it subsequently appeared on Mitchell's 1969 album Clouds. She re-recorded the song in a lusher, orchestrated version for her 2000 album Both Sides Now; this version was subsequently featured on the soundtrack to the 2003 film Love Actually.
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.
Judy Collins recorded the first commercially released version of the song, shortly after Mitchell wrote it, for her 1967 Wildflowers album. In October 1968 it 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.
"Both Sides, Now" is a plaintive song in a major key (F♯). Mitchell used a guitar tuning of E–B–E–G♯–B–E with a capo at the second fret. Although the texture is carefully crafted, it is harmonically one of Mitchell's more straightforward songs, using a modified I–IV–V chord progression consisting of F♯ (sometimes F♯maj7 or with an E♯ bass), B9 (/D♯ or /F♯), and C♯7(sus). The end of each verse adds a momentary blues feeling. The despondent feeling is created in part by an F♯ pedal point and an E♯ that often does not resolve upward but rather, in the bass, moves down to C♯ and F♯. Only in odd-numbered phrases of the verse does the E♯ resolve upward in the vocal. At times the vocal climb corresponds happily with the lyrical content ("the dizzy dancing way you feel"), but at others the rise contrasts with the lyrical mood ("they rain and snow on everyone"). In either case, the vocal returns to its predominantly downward pattern, most dramatically when the A♯ peak is soon followed by a fall of a seventh in, for example, "and if you care, don't let them know" and "feather canyons everywhere".
Mitchell's song has been recorded by many other artists over the decades. For his version, folk legend Pete Seeger added a custom fourth verse with her permission. Fairport Convention recorded the song as a demo in 1967. The band's recording did not become available until 2000, however, when it appeared on The Guv'nor Vol 4 by Ashley Hutchings. (A live recording featuring Judy Dyble from 1981 is included on Fairport's Moat on the Ledge album.)
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.