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Like many of Mitchell's songs, the lyrics are rich with imagery as she tells a story. This song explores the relationship between a powerful crime boss and the object of his affection.
In an interview with Mojo magazine February 2008, Joni Mitchell was discussing her songwriting: "Sometimes you write about the exact thing you saw, but other times you take something that happened over here and put it with something over there. In 'Edith And The Kingpin,' part of it is from a Vancouver pimp I met and part of it is Edith Piaf. It's a hybrid, but all together it makes a whole truth." Piaf was a famous French singer.
Mitchell also did a rendition of this on her 1980 album Shadows And Light, with Jaco Pastorius on bass. (thanks, Dave - Spokane, WA)
Elvis Costello recorded this for the 2007 album Tribute To Joni Mitchell.
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