If you do much reading about old school music executives, they all kind of seem like shitty people. Tommy Mottola? Shitty person. Clive Davis? Shitty person. Russell Simmons? Shitty person. Rick Rubin? Was a shitty person and then became “enlightened”. I’m not sure if David Geffen has an autobiography (and also not sure if I’d want to read it if he does), but he doesn’t exactly seem like the type of person I’d want to have a beer with. Unlike most of the people I mentioned above, though, Geffen has at least one great song written about him. That song would be “Free Man In Paris”, written and performed by the incomparable Joni Mitchell.
“Free Man” is apparently a true story. She and Geffen found themselves in Paris, where the music executive found himself marvelling about feeling “unencumbered and free”, away from the “star-making machine”. Remember before cell phones and email, when you could take a vacation from work and it actually felt like a vacation? Ahhhh…those were the days.
Anyway, Joni was at the top of her game around the time “Free Man” was written and released (Court & Spark is her magnum opus IMHO), and “Free Man In Paris”, to me, is less a song about a beleaguered record exec (with 1% problems) and more a song about anyone who dreams of an escape from time to time.
Also note: excellent remake (somewhat hilariously entitled “White Girl in Paris” by Jojo.