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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Comments (3)
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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?

  • Phil Sims says:

    Truth ☺️✌️😎

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