In this song, Mitchell sings about a guy she's falling in love with while at the same time knowing the relationship is doomed, as he is "a rambler and a gambler" who loves his freedom. Mitchell never revealed the identity of this person (if any - she says that not all her songs are autobiographical), but the two prime candidates would be Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, both of whom she dated in the early '70s.
Mitchell used jazz musicians to back her on the Court And Spark album after initial attempts to play it with the popular Los Angeles session players that backed the likes of James Taylor and Warren Zevon failed. She got the sound she was looking for in members of the band L.A. Express, which included guitarist Larry Carlton and drummer John Guerin. During the sessions, Mitchell became romantically involved with Guerin.
Released as the first single from the album, "Help Me" became Mitchell's biggest hit, going to #7 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart - her only #1 on that tally.
Mitchell called this a "throwaway song," but a "good radio record." She explained: "My record companies always had a tendency to take my fastest songs on album for singles, thinking they'd stand out because they did on the LPs. Meantime, I'd feel that the radio is crying for one of my ballads."
Mandy Moore performed this song for her Tangled audition. Alan Menken composed the music for the 2010 Disney animated film and drew inspiration from '60s folk-rock. With her flowing locks and longing for freedom, the heroine Rapunzel immediately brought Mitchell to mind.
Prince gave this song a shout out on his Sign O' The Times
trackThe Ballad of Dorothy Parker
, where he sings about a tryst with a waitress who tells him it's her favorite song.