The title track on my upcoming album is Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now.’ I have been singing that song in earnest since my thirties. For the album I recorded a simple piano/vocal version.
Well, not exactly simple. After pestering from my coach, Vance Gilbert, I came up with my own piano voicings. I plonked out each note – note by note. So the tune transformed from a folky consonant accompaniment for twenty-something years to a richly complex – yet curiously simple and moving – Herbie Hancock-ish arrangement here in my fifties. Which is perhaps more true to how I experience life.
Of course the lifeline of the arrangement, bar none, is Joni Mitchell’s prophetic and sage lyric. She was in her twenties.
‘I don’t know clouds’; ‘I don’t know love’: ‘I don’t know life’.
In my teens, when I first heard the song, I added – ‘yet’ to each of those ‘I don’t knows’. In my thirties– ‘but I’m getting there’; and now – ‘yup’.
As a kid, myriad times I used the beloved phrase, ‘I don’t know’, to stay out of trouble (sorry, Mom); I cringed having to say it in class after being called upon; as a smoky emotional young adult trying to sort things through I spoke it with raw, shredded nerves; later, when my own kids incredulously demanded WHY? when asked to do something – outside I answered authoritatively, with the inner self admission, ‘I don’t know’. And sometimes when asked for answers by students (and offspring) I would falsely answer, ‘I don’t know. What do you think?’
Yet now I know that was not so false. At least – I think I know. Let’s say I believe I know.
For the more I know, the more I know I don’t know.
And logically – that’s an impossible statement. Don’t ask me how I know – because I don’t.