In 1968, I graduated from high school. A young Joni Mitchell released the song Both Sides Now in October of 1968, and the young Jacki Kellum thought, “Yes. Joni Mitchell is brilliant. She has looked at life from every side imaginable. Her lyrics are inspired.”
In May of 1968, I delivered the valedictory speech at my graduation, and I thought that I, too, had figured things out and that I had a great deal of sage wisdom to share.
[In the above photo, I am the second person from the left, on the top row. I have long, blonde hair.]
In the year 2000, I watched a fabulous All-Star Tribute to Joni Mithcell. Again, Joni sang Both Sides Now, and I was struck by the difference in the two recordings.
I may have been reading too much into her performance, but to me, it seemed as though the much older Joni Mitchell was admitting that in 1968, she truly had not seen life from all sides and that it was only in the living of it that life was revealed. In the latter performance, Mitchell had been sobered by the other sides of life that she did not see until later. The contrast between what we think we know at 18 and what we actually do know is cliché. Unfortunately, there is no way to become older and wiser without becoming older and wiser.
Some people seem to skip through life. They seem to scurry about, dodging all the bullets. As though living were an enormous belt line, some people seem to reach the end, without being scathed at all. Those people would not understand how and why Joni Mitchell had literally changed her tune. But I do.
When I delivered my graduation speech in 1968, “It’s cloud’s illusions I recalled. I really did not know life–at all.”
[In the above photo, I am standing on the far right, and I am playing a guitar.]
The much older Jacki Kellum would also sing a different song now than she sang in 1968. Breathless, bruised, scarred, hoarse, and with a cracking and trembling voice, I would simply say that had I known in 1968 what I know now, I would have stood before the crowd in my graduating audience and I would have bowed my head and whispered, “I surrender.”
©Jacki Kellum February 12, 2016