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Free Man in Paris by Joni Mitchell

Album: Court And SparkReleased: 1974Charted:
22
  • The "Free Man" is David Geffen, who was in charge of Mitchell's record label. The song is about the pressures the music industry puts on their artists.

    Mitchell and Geffen rose up the ranks together. In the late '60s, he was establishing himself as an agent (an important early client was another mighty female songwriter: Laura Nyro) and she was making a name for herself with her music. They became good friends, and when Geffen started Asylum Records, Mitchell recorded for the label - her 1972 album For The Roses was her first on Asylum. The two confided in each other, and Geffen would often talk about the extraordinary pressures he faced as a high-powered music mogul. Mitchell wrote "Free Man in Paris" based on what he told her: Where Geffen felt most alive and unencumbered was in Paris, where nobody could call him up and ask for favors.
  • David Crosby and Graham Nash, who were good friends with Mitchell and also Geffen clients, sang backup on this track.
  • José Feliciano played guitar on this track. He was working on another project at the studios (A&M in Los Angeles) when he heard the song coming from Mitchell's studio and offered to play. He knew Mitchell from his days performing in Canada.
  • Mitchell used jazz musicians on her Court And Spark album, since the guys who recorded with the likes of Jackson Browne and James Taylor didn't give her the nuance she was looking for. Tom Scott played the flute, and members of a group called the L.A. Express played other instruments: Larry Carlton (guitar) and John Guerin (drums).
  • David Geffen didn't think this song had hit potential, but was convinced to release it as a single. Issued as the follow-up to the album's first single "Help Me," it did well, reaching #22 and becoming one of Mitchell's most popular songs.
  • Neil Diamond recorded this for his 1977 album I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight. Elton John and Sufjan Stevens recorded it on Joni Mitchell tribute albums.
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Comments: 15

On September 11th 1974, Joni Mitchell appeared in concert before 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London, England...
At the time "Free Man in Paris" was at #24 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; seventeen days later it would peak at #22 {for 2 weeks} and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
Also appearing at the concert were Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young and the Band...
Ms. Mitchell, born Roberta Joan Anderson, will celebrate her 71st birthday in two months on November 7th {2014}.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
It took me a long time to become a Joni Mitchell fan. By that I mean, to grow up enough to appreciate her. When I was younger, if I wished I could be any singer, it was Robert Plant - and I'm female, LOL. Now, in my - ah hem - mature years, I'm going back and revisiting music from my kid and teen, and even 20s years. Joni Mitchell, without doubt, is now my favorite singer/songwriter. I'm only sorry it took me nearly 30 years to get to know her genius.Lyn - Mobile, Al
Joni is Euterpe incarnate. I know that ROLLING STONE dissed it all to blazes but Hissing of Summer Lawns is my favorite album of all time.Paul - Washington Dc, Dc
Is this song all in 4/4 timing or is the intro in a different time?

Blake, Chester,MD
Blake - Stevensville, Md
It's so hard to pick a favorite from Joni, ALL her stuff is great!Reed - New Ulm, Mn
I think Blue is the best, but all of her albums are great, so as sheFrancia - Caracas, --
The MINGUS album is genius, Dylann - listen closer - or even listen to a little Charles Mingus.Roman - New York City, Ny
From an article by Johnny Black in Blender, September 2004

"I wrote that in Paris for David Geffen," Mitchell has explained, "taking a lot of it from the things he said." Geffen and Mitchell went a long way back. He had been her agent at the start of her rise to fame in the '60s, and by the time she wrote "Free Man in Paris," he owned the record label for which she (along with the Eagles, Jackson Browne and Dylan) was recording. The pair were such close friends that they even shared a house, but despite wide speculation about a romantic entanglement, theirs was more akin to a Will & Grace relationship.
Although Mitchell was pleased with the song, which features David Crosby and Graham Nash on backing vocals, Geffen was not so sure. "He didn't like it at the time," she says. "He begged me to take it off the record. I think he felt uncomfortable being shown in that light."
Nicole - Massapequa, Ny
Best album is Blue, no? I mean, come on!Kate - New York, Ny
Actually, in my opinion Hejira is her best album. The combination of players (Jaco Pastorius playing bass) and the slight jazz element make it a supreme album, although Court and Spark is is right up there. Blue is also fantastic, too.Donna - Olympia, Wa
Court and Spark, definitely her best album.Glenn - Evansville, In
Yeah, some of her later stuff is really good. Most of that comes from the 1990's. I like her stuff from the 1960's and 1970's better.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
how can anyone not like her. even AFTER the mingus album helloo.Dylann - Los Angeles, Ca
Joni's one of my favorites, too, at least she was before the Mingus album.Bonnie - Washington, Dc
This is a great song, but Jonie Mitchell is one of my favorite artists anyway.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc