Song Lyrics

For Free

by Joni Mitchell

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I slept last night in a good hotel
I went shopping today for jewels
The wind rushed around in the dirty town
And the children let out from the schools
I was standing on a noisy corner
Waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood
And he played real good
On his clarinet for free

Now me I play for fortunes
And those velvet curtain calls
I've got a black limousine
And two gentlemen
Escorting me to the halls
And I play if you have the money
Or if you're a friend to me
But the one man band
By the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good for free

Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their T.V.
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony
I heard his refrain
As the signal changed
He was playing real good for free

Joni added these lyrics to the song during the 1983 tour:

Playing like a fallen angel
Playing like a rising star
Playing for a hat full of nothing
to the honking of the cars

© Siquomb Publishing Company

Footnotes to For Free

Joni introduced the song this way on July 7, 1969:

"Now New York is an amazing city and every time I go there I write a story. Here’s another story that’s about a New York street musician who played real good for free and that’s the name of the song, “He Played Real Good for Free” and it’s in a kind of a Gene Autry country and western riff. Funky Gene Autry, of course."

Joni introduced the song this way on July 19, 1969:

"This is a song about a New York sidewalk musician who plays the clarinet on the corner of 6th and 8th real good for free. And that’s what it’s called, “Real Good for Free.” And it’s in kind of a country and western thing, country and western happy-trails-to-you swing-along thing."

Guitar Transcriptions of For Free

Piano Transcriptions of For Free

For Free has been recorded by 59 others

  • Anderson, Jason (- 2013)
  • Axton, Hoyt (from "Pistol Packin' Mama" - 1982)
  • Best, Mark (- )
  • Burbank High School Madrigal Singers (from "Fourth Annual Pop 'N Rock Ananny" - )
  • Catfish Hodge (from "Soap Opera's" - 1975)
  • Clark, Petula  (from "Warm & Tender" - 1971)
  • Collins, Judy with Richard Stoltzman (from "Innervoices" - 1989)
  • Cox, Candace & Robert Mache (from "PazFest - The New Orleans Tribute to Joni Mitchell at the Howlin' Wolf" - 2002)
  • CPR (from "(Live-1997)" - )
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash (from "(Live)" - )
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash (from "Allies" - 1983)
  • D'Agostina, Simona (- )
  • Danielle, Michaela (- )
  • Detroit, Jill (from "I'm Outta Here" - 2013)
  • Droit, Rick Summer (from "Live At Cousin Andy's" - 1995)
  • Durst, James  (from "Nude/Renewed" - 1999)
  • Ennis, Ethel (from "If Women Ruled The World" - 1998)
  • Fredriksson, Marie (from "Moten" - 1994)
  • Giles, Martin (- 2012)
  • Gilligan, Peggy O'Neal (from "Love, Loss & Other Tales" - 2015) [buy at Amazon]
  • Henry, Carl (from "Simple Presents" - 1982)
  • HOHM (- )
  • Iris Koch - Werner Tharandt (from "Lieder von Joni Mitchell, Cheryl Wheeler, Iris Koch u.a." - 1980)
  • Jennings, John (from "Strathmore Presents - A Tribute To Joni Mitchell" - 2009)
  • Julie Mairs & Chris Stowell  (from "Soft Sea Blue" - 1977)
  • Knight, Lonnie (from "Family In The Wind" - )
  • Lande, Art (from "Melissa Spins Away" - 1988)
  • Larkins, Penny (from "Festival Folk Sing Joni Mitchell" - 2010)
  • Light, Alysson (from "Fading Softly Into Silence" - )
  • Little, Marie (from "Marie Little" - 1973)
  • Marcello Sirignano Quartet (from "Nice Scribbles" - 2012) [buy at Amazon]
  • Merritt, Tift (from "Traveling Alone " - 2013)
  • Midler, Bette  (from "Video/Unreleased" - 1971)
  • Miller, Betsy  (from "Becology" - 2013) [buy at Amazon]
  • Montes, Marguerite (- 2010)
  • Morning (from "Struck Like Silver" - 1974)
  • Nereide (from "Nereide sings Joni Mitchell" - 2010)
  • Pearls Before Swine (from "The Wizard Of Is" - 2004)
  • Rhona (from "Rhona Sings For Free" - 1976)
  • Riley, Illman (from "Gambler" - 1971)
  • Robinson, Andy (from "Break Out Of The City" - 1970)
  • Russell, Miranda (from "Embrace" - 2011) [buy at Amazon]
  • Sagal, Katey (from "Covered" - 2013)
  • Saint-Marie, Buffy  (from "Quiet Places" - 1973)
  • Sally Barker - Joni Mitchell Project (from "Conversation: The Joni Tapes" - 2010)
  • Sandoval, Matthew (- 2007)
  • Simon, Fred  (from "Songs Of My Youth, Volume 1" - 2000)
  • Simpson, Kathy (- 2014)
  • Smith, Sara (from "A Tribute To Joni Mitchell" - 1974)
  • Starr, Charlie (from "Tough and Tender" - 1971)
  • Suzanne M. Sheridan & And the Suzanne Sheridan Band (from "Suzanne Sheridan Sings the Music of Joni Mitchell & Leonard Cohen" - 2012)
  • System 99 (from "Soft Fire" - 1999)
  • Taylor, James (from "(Live)" - 1970)
  • Ten Sharp (from "Ain't My Beating Heart (EP)" - 1991)
  • Terea (from "Terea" - 1977)
  • The Byrds (from "Byrds" - 1973)
  • The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain (from "Precious Little" - 2007)
  • Volker Niehusmann & Christiane Weber (from "Another Blue" - 1997)
  • Williams, Keller (from "(live performance)" - )
  • [more information on recordings by other artists]

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