God Must Be A Boogie Man

“It is his [Charlie Mingus – Ed] point of view about himself. It’s based on the first four pages of his book [Beneath the Underdog – Ed].”Joni Mitchell (575)

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

“The real difficulty for me [in writing this song – Ed] was that the only thing I can believe is what happened to me firsthand, what I see and feel with my own eyes. I had a block for three months. It’s hard for me to take someone else story and tell only his story in a song. Charlie [Mingus – Ed] assailed me with historical information about Lester Young [in whose memory “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” was written – Ed] and his family background, concerning his early playing days. He used to tap dance in his family band with his father and mother. He was married to a white woman, traveling through the South in a time when that was just taboo. So I had all these details, but I still couldn’t, with any conscience, simply write a historical song. The something very magical happened. One night Don Alias and I were on the subway, and we got off, I don’t know why, two stops early. We came up into this cloud of steam coming out of a New York manhole. Two blocks ahead of us, under these orangeish New York lights we see a crowd gathered. So we head toward the crowd. It’s a group of black men surrounding two small black boys. It’s about midnight, and the two boys are dancing this very robotlike mime dance. Immediately I’m thinking about Lester Young. They were dancing under one of those cloth awnings that goes out to the curb of a bar. I look up – and the name of the bar is the Pork Pie Hat and there were big blown up pictures of Lester Young all around the place. It was wild. So that became the last verse of the song. In my mind, that filled in a piece of the puzzle. I had the past and the present, and the two boys represented the future. To me the song then had a life of its own.”Joni Mitchell (575)

Paprika Plains

“The next time we had a brief conversation, was when Paul McCartney had a party on the Queen Mary, and everybody left the table and Bobby [Dylan – Ed] and I were sitting there. After a long silence he said, “If you were gonna paint this room, what would you paint?” I said “Well, let me think. I’d paint the mirrored ball spinning. I’d paint the women in the washroom, the band…” Later all the stuff came back to me as part of a dream that became the song “Paprika Plains.” I said, “What would you paint?” He said, “I’d paint this coffee cup.” Later he wrote “One More Cup of Coffee.””Joni Mitchell (575)


“Well, after the end of my last tour, it was a case of waiting again. I had an idea; I knew l wanted to travel. l was sitting out at the beach at Neil’s [Young – Ed] place and I was thinking, “I want to travel, I don’t know where and I don’t know who with.” Two friends of mine cane to the door and said, “We’re driving across country.” I said, “I’ve been waiting for you; I’m gone.” So we drove across country, then we parted ways. It was my car, so I drove back alone. The Hejira album was written mostly while I was traveling in the car. That’s why there were no piano songs. Hejira was an obscure word, but it said exactly what I wanted. Running away, honorably. It dealt with the leaving of a relationship, but without the sense of failure that accompanied the breakup of my previous relationships. I felt that it was not necessarily anybody’s fault. It was a new attitude.”Joni Mitchell (575)


“[‘Marcie’ is about a girl waiting for a letter that never comes, who walks out of the last verse to go west again. Is Marcie Joni?- Ed]. I suppose so, really. Marcie is a real girl, she lives in London. I used her name, because I wanted a two-syllable name. But I’m the girl in all these songs.”Joni Mitchell (314)

I Had A King

“And the first song in the album, ‘I Had A King’ is about the breakup of my marriage [to Chuck Mitchell – Ed].”Joni Mitchell (314)

Lesson In Survival

“Yes, that was when I came off the road. I had a friend at that time I was very close to and who was on the verge of tremendous success. I was watching his career and I was thinking that as his woman at that time I should be able to support him. And yet it seemed to me that I could see the change in his future would remove things from his life. I felt like having come through, having had a small taste of success, and having seen the consequences of what it gives you and what it takes away in terms of what you THINK it’s going to give you – well, I just felt I was in no position to help. I knew what he needed was someone to support him and say it was all wonderful. But everything I saw him going through I thought was ludicrous, because I’d thought it was ludicrous when I’d done it. It was a very difficult time, and the song was actually written for that person: ‘In the office sits a poet and he trembles as he sings, and he asks some guy to circulate his soul… okay on your mark red ribbon runner.’ Like, go after it, but remember the days when you sat and made up tunes for yourself and played in small clubs where there was still some contact and when people came up and said – maybe they did before, but you didn’t care, you know? Ummm, well, I’ve got to clarify that – it is appreciated when someone says it and genuinely means it and you can see it’s moved them, maybe changed them a little. Like, I’ve been really moved by some performances and I’ve been unable to tell them from my side of it because I know what it’s like to receive praise. It’s a very difficult thing to give sincerely and communicate that sincerity.”Joni Mitchell (315)

Tax Free

“I wrote ‘Tax Free’ because they [the moral majority evangelists – Ed] are slamming my industry. There was a time when rock and roll could fill the same stadiums as these evangelists, and in some ways get more respect. I think there is an envy there, because it’s all showbusiness.”Joni Mitchell (316)

Not To Blame

“As regards ‘Not To Blame’, we don’t know if O.J. Simpson killed his wife but we do know that he battered her frequently and was kind of smug about it, like he was above the law. So the precariousness of my gender at this particular time was something that was hard for me to sidestep.”Joni Mitchell (317)
“Some people said it’s about O.J., and some people said it’s about Jackson Browne, right? Well, it’s about men who batter women – and it has some details that are specific and some that apply to a lot of different situations. It’s about the kind of guy who goes around battering women – and if the shoe fits, wear it, you know?”Joni Mitchell (318)

Sex Kills

“So the precariousness of my gender at this particular time was something that was hard for me to sidestep. Precariousness in the office, in the streets, even in public swimming pools, which I talk about on ‘Sex Kills’.”Joni Mitchell (317)
“This song came out of the last night of the L.A. riots. I pulled up behind a long white car and this guy had the license plate, JUST ICE and I never really thought about that word in that manner – Justice, Just Ice – so for the weeks that followed and particularly with the uproar we were in down there, I asked everyone I knew about Justice, “What is it?” Everybody wants it, nobody knows what it is. I read Plato’s ‘Republic’ which is based on the premise that if you build a just society you could have justice. But Plato describes the Socratic just society which would be unjust to the likes of me because it was a society of specialists. You had to be either a painter, a poet or a musician but you couldn’t tackle all three so I would already be pinched in this society so, to this day, I don’t know what a just society is or what justice is so this is kind of what went down.”Joni Mitchell (322)

Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire

“That was a song about the seduction of heroin, which I never did but which I was around.”Joni Mitchell (317)

Stay In Touch

“When my daughter and her boyfriend came, Teddy heard it and said, “Kilauren, that song’s about you.” Well it was – it’s about the beginning unsteadiness in a very passionate new relationship. Any time I have a passionate new relationship,that song will come to life in a new way. If it’s overly explained, you rob the people whose lives it brushes up against of their own interpretation and their own experience.”Joni Mitchell (318)

Both Sides Now

“I was up in a plane. I was reading ‘Henderson the Rain King’, and in the book he was up on a plane flying to Africa and he looked down on clouds and he mused that he looked up at clouds, but he’d never looked down on them before. So that was where the germ of the idea for the song came from.”Joni Mitchell (1304)