43 – Comparing versions

This follows on from thinking about Dave Van Ronk. There were two time when he might have had commercial success. The first was when he was asked to become one of the members of what later became Peter, Paul and Mary (Peter, Dave and Mary doesn’t have the same ring and who knows if it would have been as successful – he didn’t really have the look); the second was when he recorded Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’. He had recorded it early and it was gradually creeping up the charts until it got swamped by Judy Collins’ version, which came out only a little later.

A while ago I watched a TV programme about rock stars growing old, which mentioned that although they still performed, they didn’t write good songs any more. Robert Wyatt (who still writes good songs) said something interesting about this: that sometimes a singer could grow into what they had previously written, understand it more and interpret it better. In other words, evolve. The example he gave was Joni Mitchell’s reworking of Both Sides Now, which is lower, slower and a little world weary. Much more like Van Ronk and less like Judy Collins or her original.

My fleeting pleasure today is the appreciation of the huge library that a is YouTube and the chance it offers to compare these versions (though I haven’t posted the Judy Collins as I have never liked it very much)

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