Edith and the Kingpin–Queen Joni Mitchell

Apr 27th, 2011 in Music

During the years from 1971 to 1976, Joni Mitchell released a consecutive string of revelatory albums that will never be challenged artistically by another female artist.  Ever.  First “Blue,” then “For the Roses,” then “Court and Spark,” and then the great live album “Miles of Aisles.”  And then she jazzed things up even further with “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” and “Hejira,” the latter being her last great album.  The compositions, complexity and lyricism were and still are unparalleled.  Lady Shmaga!

We’ll write more about that string of albums another date, but we’ve become smitten once again with one of the great songs off “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”:  Edith and the Kingpin. It’s a poetic short story of epic proportions, and we never fail to be blown away by the regal stature of the song.  Check out her studio version, her live take at the Santa Barbara Bowl in 1979, and Elvis Costello’s great reading with Herbie Hancock’s musical lead on Costello’s spectacular Spectacle show.  Tina Turner and many others have covered as well.  Enjoy.

“The big man arrives
Disco dancers greet him
Plainclothes cops greet him
Small town, big man, fresh lipstick glistening
Sophomore jive
From victims of typewriters
The band sounds like typewriters
The big man he’s not listening
His eyes hold Edith
His left hand holds his right
What does that hand desire
That he grips it so tight

Edith in the ring
The passed-over girls are conferring
The man with the diamond ring is purring
All claws for now withdrawn
One by one they bring
His renegade stories to her
His crimes and his glories to her
In challenge they look on
Women he has taken grow old too soon
He tilts their tired faces
Gently to the spoon

Edith in his bed
A plane in the rain is humming
The wires in the walls are humming
Some song-some mysterious song
Bars in her head
Beating frantic and snowblind
Romantic and snowblind
She says-his crime belongs
Edith and the Kingpin
Each with charm to sway
Are staring eye to eye
They dare not look away
You know they dare not look away”

Joni Mitchell–Edith and the Kingpin

[audio:http://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/03-Edith-And-The-Kingpin.mp3|titles=03 Edith And The Kingpin]

And below is a great live version by Joni at the Santa Barbara Bowl in September 1979 (from the “Shadows and Light” DVD) with Jaco Pastorius killing on bass:

Finally, below is Elvis Costello’s rendering backed by Herbie Hancock and his phenomenal band:

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