1001 Songs Challenge,  1970s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #398: Free Man in Paris (1974)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


Joni Mitchell – Free Man in Paris (1974)

We are leaving Australia today and returning to Canada to check in again with Joni Mitchell. She previously appeared in 1971 with the gorgeous track, A Case of You. When we catch up with Mitchell in 1974 her career is going along very nicely, thank you. The same cannot be said about a friend of Mitchell’s though, who was the inspiration behind the track that 1001 Songs have chosen today – Free Man in Paris.

Free Man in Paris is Mitchell’s observation of her friend – record producer David Geffen. In the song she recreates a visit the pair made to France and to Paris and the impact it had on Geffen. Back home, the producer is working endless hours, recording new acts, wheeling and dealing, he has the fates of aspiring musicians in his hands, yet has very little in the way of respite for himself. In Paris, the story is very different. Geffen leaves the music business behind for a time. He is immersed in the French capital, at ease, can relax and Mitchell’s refrain that he is “free” only serves to emphasise the heavy impact work has had on Geffen. 

Free Man in Paris is very different to Mitchell’s previous entry on our list – A Case of You. That song was deep and poignant, heart-rending at times as Mitchell conveyed her love for another. Free Man in Paris, despite a sombre subject at times, sounds much more upbeat and easygoing. Mitchell beautifully captures the severe pressure and damaging workload inflicted on Geffen and offers us the ultimate escapism in the Parisian streets. I quite fancy going there right now myself.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Doors – The End (1967)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

The Kinks – Days (1968)

Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)

David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)

Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)

Stevie Wonder – Living for the City (1973)

Patti Smith Group – Piss Factory (1974)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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