Brandi Carlile, 38—the most nominated woman at the latest GRAMMY Awards—knows that music is cross-generational. Last Saturday night she teamed up with NextTribe Advisory board member Judy Collins—in the middle of Judy’s 29-city concert tour—and the two women wowed the audience with Judy’s most iconic song, Joni Mitchell’s 1966 composition, Both Sides Now, at the Newport Folk Festival.
Carlile also brought Dolly Parton out to join her supergroup of musicians of different ages. The group, called the Highwomen, also includes Sheryl Crow. The collaboration among Judy, 80; Dolly, 73; Sheryl, 57, and Brandi, 38, demonstrates that women in music defy age and that the truths that the music contains are enduring.
At the end of the rousing performance, Judy thanked Brandi “for putting together an amazing group of women to join you on the stage.”
Judy’s original rendition of the song she sang with Brandi—one of Joni Mitchell’s most evocative—was resonant of women’s complicated brand-new freedom in 1967. “‘Both Sides Now’ just spoke to me,’” Judy told me. She says that she saw the song’s powerful message in that crossroad year.
“Joni and I and other women were struggling against demons and taboos: women being unconventional, being artists; mothers losing children”—to sexist custody decisions (Judy) and adoption because of “shameful” unwed motherhood (Joni). Judy included Joni’s song in her album Wildflowers and introduced Joni to the Newport Folk Festival that long-ago summer.
Now, 52 years later, the song about female yearning and wisdom and complexity and risk-taking has not lost its meaning—for women of all ages. The meaning has only gotten deeper. And so has the sisterhood of women of all ages on the stage.