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Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now

On May 4th Omnibus are publishing a paperback edition of Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now, which was first published in 2014. This handsome book is an intimate exploration of Joni Mitchell’s life and art. It is composed of conversations between Joni Mitchell and her friend, the musician, author and journalist Malka Marom. 
Joni Mitchell performed at the 2022 Newport Folk Festival. The set, which has became affectionally known as a 'Joni Jam', featured support from a crowded stage of admiring musicians

The penultimate song of the show was the heart-rending, eponymous 'Both Sides, Now'. In the book Joni tells Malka about her inspirations for the song, which she describes as a 'meditation on fantasy and reality'. Joni Mitchell was 23 when she wrote it and she describes the ridicule she received from people who dismissed it as somehow beyond her years. She muses, 'It was a song that I think I had to grow into'.

Watching her incredible 1969 performance on The Johnny Cash Show, it is clear that those detractors were totally wrong. Nonetheless, her recent Newport Folk Festival rendition is very moving and poignant. In the YouTube comments, someone reflects: 'A 23 year old wrote a song for her 78 year old self to sing.'

The story of that song is one of many candid insights in the book. We learn lots about her childhood, including about night-time dreams of 
composing music on keyboards ('And I also dreamed I could drive a car') and the "Fads and Fashion" column she penned in a school paper in which, as you might guess, she started fads and stopped them.

There are many such stories. I loved her account of seeing Elvis' show in Vegas and admiring his boyish, playful, goofy behaviour, noting how he made fun of himself. Or her pleasure in sitting down late at night and tuning her guitar into an unfamiliar tuning, passing her fingers up and down the neck in a sort of mathematical fashion, messing around and exploring.

They are wide-ranging and deep conversations, touching on mythology and creativity. There are stories about poetry, Love Actually, crop rotation. The interviews are set alongside lyrics and a selection of Joni Mitchell’s paintings. Now available in paperback.

You can preview the first few pages of the book online here.

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