I have made several posts over the past year about response songs. All of these posts were based on things that I read. This week I had a moment of blinding insight when I discovered a potential response song myself. Here is my story…….
On Tuesday I was listening to Joni Mitchell’s 1968 debut album, Song to a Seagull, that was produced by David Crosby. The first track of the album, I Had a King, came on and it was like I was hearing it for the first time. As I listened to the lyrics I was thinking about how Joni and Graham Nash had been a couple and I started to wonder if Graham might have been the King that Joni was referring to. Let’s listen to the song before I continue my story so you can share that moment with me….
This is truly a gorgeous song which makes me wonder why I was thinking so hard when listening to it (but sometimes I can’t help myself). My blinding insight occurred as I continued to listen and here is how it sounded in my head…..
Holy shit, Graham had a song called I Used To Be A King on his 1971 debut album, Songs For Beginners. I always thought it was just a follow-on song to his song King Midas In Reverse from his time with the Hollies but maybe it was a response song….
So…out comes Songs For Beginners and before you know it I Used To Be A King is blasting out of my stereo. Listen with me……
So back to the conversation going on in my head….
These songs have to be related and surely I am not the first person to notice! Let’s find out what other people might be saying….
Out comes my laptop and off I go to internet, the fountain of all knowledge. Sure enough, I found a few references to these two songs……….the best one was from likemariasaidpaz.blogspot.com….
Graham Nash’s Songs For BeginnersI used to be a king
And everything around me turned to gold
I thought I had everything
Now I’m left without a hand to hold
But it’s alright
How are you?
For what it’s worth
I must say
I loved you
And in my bed
Late at night
I miss you
Someone is going to take my heart
No one is going to break my heartAgainI love that song and I love that album. “I Used To Be A King” is ‘inspired’ by Joni Mitchell’s “I Had A King.” Joni’s song was written to early in her career to have been about Graham (she hadn’t met him yet); however, he wrote “I Used To Be A King” as he and Joni were in the process of breaking up. Though not about Graham, the two songs do work as a call and response.Graham Nash was always my favorite of the three in Crosby, Stills and Nash. I like David Crosby and Stephen Stills (and love Neil Young) but Graham Nash’s vocals and lyrics always spoke to me in a way that few ever manage to. I consider it one of the great losses of this period that Graham released so few solo albums. I think he easily outpaced other solo male singer-songwriters (including Jackson Browne and James Taylor) and that he could have been among the finest.Songs For Beginners makes that so clear. It remains a perfect album.
After reading this I am convinced that the author of the above post nailed it! Sure enough, Joni and Graham were not a couple when the song I Had A King was written and recorded! Even though the song was not about Graham, I Used To Be A King is clearly about Joni and is almost certainly a clever reference back to I Had A King.
At the end of the day, I feel somewhat vindicated by my blinding insight! Regardless, it was a really fun exercise. As always, let me know what you think.
Here’s a little bonus. Let’s listen to King Midas In Reverse, the Hollies song that I thought might might be related to I Used To Be A King…….