I was reading Saul Bellow's "Henderson the Rain King" on a plane and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He's on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.
Judy Collins made the first commercially released recording of the song, shortly after Mitchell wrote it, first including it on her 1967 Wildflowers album, and later releasing the track as a single in mid-1968. Collins' recording reached #8 on the U.S. pop singles charts and won a 1968 Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance. The record peaked at #3 on Billboard's Easy Listening survey and has become one of Collins' signature songs.
The song was published by Scholastic as a picture book, Both Sides Now, illustrated by Alan Baker, in 1992.
A piano arrangement by Meredith White of the song was chosen as an examination piece in the 2011 & 2012 Piano Grade 3 Syllabus (List C, No. 3) by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, in an effort to incorporate more beginner-level pieces that appeal to adults.
The Judy Collins recording of the song was featured in the closing moments of the Season 6 finale of the American television series Mad Men, an episode titled "In Care Of," which originally aired on AMC on June 23, 2013.
Pete Seeger did a cover on his 1969 LP of songs for children and elderly called Young vs. Old. Seeger added a more optimistic fourth verse to the song. The new lyrics are in Seeger's book Where Have All the Flowers Gone in the chapter "New Words?"
Tirso Cruz III covered this song in his self-titled album "Tirso Cruz III"(1969).
Pat Martino released a version on his 1974 album, Consciousness.
Paradox (夢劇院), a Hong Kong singing group, released a Cantonese cover version "The Color Theory of Relativity" (Chinese: 彩色相對論) in 1988 based on this song. They also recorded the same song in original lyrics. Both versions were released on their first two albums.
Sharon Cuneta released a version of the song on her 1999 album, When I Love, and it was released as the album's lead-off single. The song was subsequently used as the theme for her 2001 movie, Magkapatid (Siblings).