Free Man in Paris
|"Free Man in Paris"|
|Single by Joni Mitchell|
|from the album Court and Spark|
|Genre||Folk jazz, jazz fusion|
|Joni Mitchell singles chronology|
"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 most popular songs.
The song is about music agent/promoter David Geffen, a close friend of Mitchell in the early 1970s, and describes Geffen during a trip the two made to Paris with Robbie and Dominique Robertson. "Free Man in Paris" went to number twenty-two on the Billboard Hot 100 and to number two on the Easy Listening chart.
Composition and style
The home key of the song is A-major. The frequent substitution of "flattened" scale degrees (flat-6 and flat-7; that is, in A-major, F-natural and G-natural in place of F# and G#) adds a jazzy folky sound to the song. The time signature is 4/4 except the compound quintuple meter intro counted as 15/8 or simply 2 bars of 6/8 plus 3 eighth notes.
The opening melodic lick E-F#-E-E-A (set to the words "The way I see it") is the fundamental source of the song's vocal line. It also foreshadows some of the dramatic chord progressions. The pattern is composed of two simple motions. The first is E-F#-E, a neighbouring-tone pattern in which the upward step to F#, and immediate return to E serve to embellish the E. The second is the upward motion from E to A in which the upward skip to A embellishes the E. Through both these simple motions, the primary melodic tone E is said to be prolonged over the entire lick. In scale step notation, these motions can be notated as 5-6-5, and 5-1.
While Geffen is never mentioned by name, Mitchell describes how he works hard creating hits and launching careers but can find some peace while vacationing in Paris. Mitchell sings "I was a free man in Paris. I felt unfettered and alive. Nobody calling me up for favors. No one's future to decide."
Notable versions and covers
In the 1970s, an instrumental version of the song was the theme music used for CBC Television's The Saturday Evening News, which aired at 6 p.m. till 1982 when it was replaced with Saturday Report. "Free Man In Paris" has been covered by Aimee Mann, Neil Diamond, Sufjan Stevens (on the album A Tribute to Joni Mitchell), Adrienne Young, Phish, Elton John, Alanis Morissette and JoJo who changed the title to "White Girl in Paris". It is ranked #470 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
- Joni Mitchell — vocals, guitars
- Tom Scott — woodwinds
- José Feliciano, Larry Carlton — electric guitars
- Wilton Felder— bass
- John Guerin — drums
- David Crosby and Graham Nash — backing vocals
- Joni Mitchell looks at both sides now: her hits -- and misses, by Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times, 7 December 1996.
- Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 172.
- "Joni Mitchell - A Chronology of Appearances". Retrieved September 3, 2016.