Joni Mitchell and Pete Seeger duet – “Both Sides, Now”

Joni Mitchell duet with Pete Seeger

This duet always brings tears to my eyes, especially as Pete Seeger was one of my dad’s favorites and Joni is one of mine. What I love about Joni most is the poetry and reflection in her lyrics, which seem bourne out of her life experience and absorption of the world around her, and through a process of quiet organic innovation, she transmutes them inside her into a voice and style uniquely her own.

I was so lucky I got to see Seeger perform at age 91 at the conclusion of the 2011 Newport Folk Fest with Emmylou Harris and others on stage, where he lead the remaining 100 or so festivalgoers in a singalong of “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” with his faint breath.

Pete Seeger and Joni Mitchell together is a gift. They are more than national treasures, they are beacons. I hope you enjoy this version as much as I do. – Spreadable Fats

The following is quoted from this great website about Pete Seeger’s penning of the extra verses:

“When Pete Seeger turned 50, on May 3, 1969, he sent a note to Joni Mitchell, asking her approval for the fourth verse he’d penned to Both Sides Now.

It follows the three verses that end with her confessing “I really don’t know clouds/love/life at all. To which Seeger adds:

Daughter, daughter, don’t you know
You’re not the first to feel just so?
So let me say, before I go,
It’s worth it any way:

Some day we all may be surprised,
We’ll wake, and open up our eyes
And then at last, we’ll realize
The whole world feels this way:

We’ve all been living upside down
And turned around, with love unfound
Until we turn and face the sun
All of us, yes, everyone.

If this is atypical New Age idealism for Seeger—the same Seeger who wrote the hard-biting words of Last Train to Nuremburg and Waist Deep in the Big Muddy—it’s perfectly in keeping with the broader theme of Both Sides Now.

Mitchell is one who has crossed many borders in her music and her life. Her retirement from singing to rediscover painting in California is the kind of organic boundary…[and as] he enters his tenth decade, Seeger has made that shift. He now appears only rarely, but significantly to savour the fruits he has spent his life cultivating: a world of communion across borders…

It is in that benevolence Seeger addressed Mitchell as “Daughter” in his letter of 40 years ago: a parent who sees resolution of a lifelong struggle in reach for the next generation, especially one who puts the question philosophically as Joni did.

His addendum is more than a reassuring “It’ll be all right” or “All you need is love.” It’s an explicit nudge towards our Source however we conceive/experience it.

And if the medal awarded him by Bill Clinton is supplemented by a Nobel Peace Prize, then, in an Eighth Day of Creation, we can say, as in Genesis, ‘Yes, it is truly good.'”

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