Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Joni Mitchell


Written and first performed by Joni Mitchell (1969).
Hit versions by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (US #11 1970), Matthew’s Southern Comfort (US #23/UK #1/CAN #5/IRE #2/POL #2/SWE #2 1970).

From the wiki: “‘Woodstock’ was written by Joni Mitchell and included on her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon. But, was first performed Mitchell at the Big Sur Folk Festival in September 1969, one month after the Woodstock Music and Art Festival. The song was notably covered by both Matthews Southern Comfort, and by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and would on to become a counterculture anthem. Mitchell wrote the song from what she had heard from then-boyfriend, Graham Nash, about the Woodstock concert. She had not been there herself; she had been told by a manager that it would be more advantageous for her to appear at the time on The Dick Cavett Show. Mitchell wrote it in a hotel room in New York City, watching televised reports of the festival.

The Circle Game

First recorded by Ian & Sylvia (1967).
Also recorded by Buffy Sainte Marie (1967).
Hit album versions by Tom Rush (US #68 1968), Joni Mitchell, writer (US #27 1970).

From the wiki: “‘The Circle Game’ was written by Joni Mitchell but was first recorded by Ian & Sylvia in 1967. Tom Rush recorded the song in 1968 and used as the title track for his song-cycle album, The Circle Game. The songs on the album follow the cycle of a relationship from its beginning to an end, according to the lyric content and sequencing of songs.

“‘The Circle Game’ can be read as the turning point of the relationship while Rush’s song ‘Rockport Sunday’ ends the romance instrumentally. Mitchell would record a cover of her own composition for inclusion on her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon that also included such notable original songs as ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and ‘Woodstock’.”

Both Sides Now

First recorded (as “Clouds (Both Sides Now)”) by Dave Van Ronk & The Hudson Dusters (1967).
Hit version by Judy Collins (US #8/MOR #3/CAN #6/UK #14/AUS #37/NZ #7 1968).
Also recorded by Fairport Convention (1967), Harpers Bizarre (US #123/MOR #38 1968), Joni Mitchell (1969 | 2000), Herbie Hancock (2007).

From the wiki: “First recorded as ‘Clouds (Both Sides Now)’ (against the writer’s will) by Dave Van Ronk & The Hudson Dusters in 1967, for their one and only album, the song ‘Both Sides, Now’ was written by Joni Mitchell – inspired, she says, by a passage in Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow:

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.

“However much she might have disliked Van Ronk retitling ‘Both Sides Now’, Mitchell must have caught his drift. She titled the 1969 album holding her own version of ‘Both Sides, Now’ Clouds.

Chelsea Morning

First recorded by Dave Van Ronk & The Hudson Dusters (1967).
Also recorded by Fairport Convention (1968), Jennifer Warnes (1968), Gloria Loring (1968), Joni Mitchell (1969).
Hit versions by Judy Collins (US #78/MOR #25 1969), Green Lyte Sunday (MOR #19 1970), Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 (MOR #21 1970).

From the wiki: “Written by Joni Mitchell, the song was inspired by Mitchell’s room in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. Although written by Mitchell in 1967, she held off recording the song herself until preparing her second album, Clouds (1969), partly because ‘Chelsea Morning’ had already been recorded by several other artists, first by Dave Van Ronk & the Hudson Dusters in 1967.