Joni Mitchell delivers a spine-tingling performance of ‘Both Sides Now’ on Mama Cass’ failed TV Show, 1969
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a simply gorgeous performance from one of our favourite artists, the irreproachable Joni Mitchell. Here, she performs a stunning version of the iconic single and perhaps her most beloved song, ‘Both Sides Now’, way back in 1969.
There’s not much Mama Cass, the golden-voiced member of The Mamas and The Papas, didn’t face in her far-too-short career. But it’s fair to say that the failed TV programme is one of the moments of her life which she would have rather forgotten, despite the esteemed guests she welcomed on the show. Joni Mitchell’s performance may not have sealed the deal for Cass but it sure did show off the unstoppable talent of the Canadian.
The singer’s TV show, creatively called, The Mama Cass Television Show, never got past the pilot stage. Which, considering the calibre of guests involved with that pilot is quite surprising. When one of those guests, Joni Mitchell, delivers a performance like this, it’s downright astonishing. The vocal delivery is impressive but, as ever with Mitchell, it’s the connection to the song’s lyrics that really lands.
On the guestlist for the first show was comedian Buddy Hackett, singers Mary Travers and John Sebastian, The Mamas and Papas themselves, and, of course, the Queen of Folk Joni Mitchell. With a fantastic trio performance from Cass, Mitchell and Travers, covering Bob Dylan song ‘I Shall Be Released’ as part of the running set, it’s amazing the show didn’t get picked up.
The show would sadly remain a black mark on Cass’ otherwise fairly untarnished career. The singer would sadly pass away only five years later following a heart attack in 1974. Mitchell’s performance on the show not only goes down as a further commendation on her immeasurable talent but the friendship she shared with the late Cass.
One of the standout singles from Mitchell’s album Clouds the track, ‘Both Sides Now’, remains to this day as one of Mitchell’s most iconic compositions. Mitchell is said to have written ‘Both Sides Now’ in March of 1967, after being inspired by a passage in Saul Bellow’s novel Henderson the Rain King.
Mitchell once commented: “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.”
The reason it became so popular was because of touching and honest performances such as this. Though Mitchell had been performing for years she saved a special moment of sincerity whenever television cameras were around, allowing them and the audience at home to see the content of the songs she sung resonated across her very soul.
Below is one such moving performance. Watch Joni Mitchell performing ‘Both Sides Now’ on Mama Cass’ TV show below and see her join in with Cass and Mary Travers for a group performance of ‘I Shall Be Released’ below that.