Was it the contrast of her now voice to her then voice?
Was it the miracle of singing and learning to finger a chord on a fretboard again after a 2015 brain aneurysm? Was it her contact with some essential destructive force turned creative source that made me bawl like a baby at a song I’ve heard, and sung, a thousand times before?
So many un-guitar strings were touched in me, they were too many to count.
As the surprise closing act at the Newport Folk Festival on Sunday, iconic singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell embodied what happens when a multi-generational muse and mentor survives a kind of catastrophic death within a life and is preserved by some unnamable grace (and to her own and her surgeon’s admission, grit) to share and convey both sides of any story.
After all, there have been at least a thousand lesser deaths within my own single life.
Joni, like other great songwriters, poets, and visionaries, penned the lyrics to “Both Sides Now” in a reach through the illusion of how things seem (clouds, love, and life being perfect examples) and prophetically pulled back a fundamental truth. I’ve heard her and others sing it for decades, but she embodied it for me on Sunday.
Among all the others reasons I cried, one message seems most responsible for the intensity of my weeping: I know so very little.
For me, I think I know, or sense, it is the least explored key in unlocking my whole heart. And maybe the heart of a world so intolerant of opposing positions and opinions.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Joni. I’ve never needed “Both Sides Now” more than now.
Watch Joni’s powerful performance below: