For some reason, I have had a scrap of Joni Mitchell lyrics in my head for the last few days (“I looked at life from both sides now”), so I dug into it on YouTube this morning. Both Sides is a powerful song, especially for somebody my age. And even though Judy Collins made it famous, Mitchell’s version of the song is so, so much better.

Anyway, in reading about Joni Mitchell, I discovered that she had written Woodstock, the so-called counterculture anthem that was made famous first by Ian Matthews, then, of course, by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Being the wannabe hippie that I am, I know the CSNY version very well, but I had never heard Mitchell’s original version. It is extraordinary, and her phrasing defies description. Listen to her breathing, and how she breaks lines of the poetry. If anybody were to ask, “What is music?”, this would be one of my examples. The interplay of melody, poetry, phrasing, even how she sings the word “smog.” This is exceptional. And it’s live.

I think I was born too late.


Woodstock, by Joni Mitchell

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

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Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who l am
But you know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden