Joni Mitchell Sings an Achingly Pretty Version of “Both Sides Now” on the Mama Cass TV Show (1969)

"Records can be a bad trip. The audience can play your mistakes over and over. In a television special they see you once and you work hard to make sure they're seeing you at your best." 

Mama Cass Elliot, The Argus

It’s hard to imagine anyone blessed with Mama Cass’ golden pipes being embarrassed by a recorded performance. A live gig, yes, though, celebrities of her era were subjected to far fewer witnesses.

The Internet was an undreamable little dream in 1969, when the sole episode of The Mama Cass Television Show aired. The former singer of the Mamas and the Papas died five years later, presumably unaware that future generations would have knowledge of, let alone access to, her failed pilot.




She may have described her variety show as “low key” to the Fremont, California Argus, but the guest list was padded with high wattage friends, including comedian Buddy Hackett, and singers Mary Travers and John Sebastian. Joni Mitchell, above, delivered an above-reproach performance of “Both Sides Now.”

Later, Mitchell and Travers joined their hostess for the heartfelt rendition of "I Shall Be Released” below, a performance that is only slightly marred by Elliot’s insane costume and an unnecessarily syrupy backing arrangement of strings and reeds.

Those who can’t live without seeing the complete show can purchase DVDs online.

Related Content:

Vintage Video of Joni Mitchell Performing in 1965 — Before She Was Even Named Joni Mitchell

James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, Live and Together (1970)

Watch 1970s Animations of Songs by Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce & The Kinks, Aired on The Sonny & Cher Show

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  She’ll is appearing onstage in New York City through June 26 in Paul David Young’s political satire, Faust 3. Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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  • Alan says:

    Takes me back to a time when Joni made me melt. She still does !!

  • Mary Angela Douglas says:

    Surely that has to be the most beautiful way she ever sang it.
    Extraordinary delicacy, and shading. Shows the power of fragility something which seems to have been swallowed up in our time where so much of what is called singing depends on singing full throttle the entire length of the song whereas in this case the song remains fragile throughout from begining to end and yet the feeling runs very deep in the interpretation and presentation of the song throughout. No one iw waiting or needs to wait for the big ear drum assault of the denouement, imagine that. No one needs to be blown away. If only it could be learned again loud volume is not always necessary to indicate strong feeling in music and quite often volume loud volume seems only to exist now as a means to itself so instead of thinking what a beautiful song, all you are thinking is, what a powerful voice. Im kind of sick of it myself. Like colouring always in the color red. You keep asking yourself, but what about all the other colors?

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