Sunday, February 1, 2009


I’ve never been the world’s biggest Joni Mitchell, but this is one of a handful of her songs that I really like. Having said that, it never occurred to me until just yesterday to Google the meaning of it. By that I mean find out who the song is about. I can’t believe I haven’t done that before, especially since, in my forthcoming sequel to Papa Do Run, I devote a whole chapter to songs about “real” people. Duh-uh! Anyway, I’ve made up for lost time. I now know whom this song is about. You may have known the person behind the lyrics for donkey’s years, but I’m a bit of a late bloomer sometimes, so go easy on me SVP, as we say in Canada (short for s’il vous plait). Here, from Wikipedia:

"Free Man In Paris" is a song written by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. It appeared on her 1974 album Court and Spark, as well as her live album Shadows and Light. It is one of her more popular songs...(and) is about music agent/promoter David Geffen, a close friend in the early 1970s and a trip they made to Paris with Robbie and Dominique Robertson.

Now, I think that’s pretty cool. I don’t usually go in for much celebraity gossip, but I do like to know about song enigmas, etc. However, this next part of the Wiki entry leaves me stymied. Read on:

In 2007 the song was covered by Sufjan Stevens for a tribute to Joni Mitchell compilation. Similar to his cover of The Beatles "What Goes On", Stevens kept only the lyrics and let the words inspire him to write a new arrangement and melody for the song Stevens has stated that with his cover he "decided to conjure up a party song, with strings and trumpets and trombones and vibraphones marching in a parade down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, all lit up with fireworks."

I don’t get it. To be totally honest here, this just ticks me off. You take a nice song like Free Man in Paris, with not only wonderful lyrics, but a great melody, and when you decide to cover it, you change half of it??!! Why would you do that? Why?? If mean, why not just write a whole new song, your own song, about a parade in the Champs Elysees? Maybe because I’m not a musician you can say that I just don’t understand. No argument from me. In my defense, I have to say that when I like a song, I really like it and don’t like to see it messed with. Okay, I know you all are familiar with this one, but here’s a nice video of it so we can all sing along, picture David Geffen with a phone receiver on each ear, and enjoy Joni’s brilliant lyrics AND melody.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Video by YT member hanbanxxx

1 comment:

Linda - SE PA said...

Quite a beautiful picture.

Agree with you wholeheartedly. I'm not a fan of tribute CD's and while I heard bits and pieces of the tribute CD while at Barnes & Nobles, I don't recall hearing this.

Quite a few of Joni's songs are attributed to celebrity - especially the songs when she was dating Graham Nash. He also wrote about her and their relationship.

I have always liked these heart-felt and with some base of real life history songs better than a crafted "songwriting 101" type. There are many great songs out there - would be interested in reading your book when it is available.