Joni Mitchell – The Circle Game

In this poetic song, Joni Mitchell tells the story of a child’s journey to adulthood. She uses a carousel as a metaphor for the years that go by, pointing out how we can look back, but we can’t return to our past.

The song opens with the young boy enjoying the wonder of youth, but looking forward to getting older. In the second verse, he is 16 and driving. The final verse finds him at 20, with his dreams tempered a bit, but still with high hopes for his future.

This was partly written in response to Neil Young’s song about lost innocence “Sugar Mountain,” where Young sings, “You can’t be 20 on Sugar Mountain.” Mitchell’s last verse is a rejoinder of sorts, with the 20-year-old facing diminished dreams but still with plenty of hope.

Young and Mitchell are both from Canada and met in the mid-’60s.

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