Song Lyrics

Not To Blame

by Joni Mitchell

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The story hit the news
From coast to coast
They said you beat the girl
You loved the most
Your charitable acts
Seemed out of place
With the beauty
With your fist marks on her face
Your buddies all stood by
They bet their fortunes
And their fame
That she was out of line
And you were not to blame

Six hundred thousand doctors
Are putting on rubber gloves
And they're poking
At the miseries made of love
They say they're learning
How to spot
The battered wives
Among all the women
They see bleeding through their lives
I bleed for your perversity
These red words that make a stain
On your white-washed claim that
She was out of line
And you were not to blame

I heard your baby say
When he was only three
"Daddy let's get some girls
One for you and one for me"
His mother had the frailty you despise
And the looks you love to drive to suicide
Not one wet eye around
Her lonely little grave
Said "He was out of line girl
You were not to blame"

© 1994;

Not To Blame has been recorded by one other artist


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MrMeaning on

May I mention Jackson Browne here?

'Not to Blame' is widely believed to be Joni Mitchell's condemnation of Browne as a wife-beater who drove his first wife to suicide and a coward who always says he's not to blame.

Mitchell released this attack on Browne not long after rumours circulated suggesting that Browne had beaten Daryl Hannah. Browne denied the rumour. He's said he tried to talk to Mitchell about her song, but wasn't able to.

Hannah sustained injuries during the incident, but she's never directly accused Browne. Her press release on the day of the incident said, 'She received serious injuries incurred during a domestic dispute with Browne for which she sought medical treatment'.

Hannah's uncle attended the clinic and publicly confirmed the injuries. Browne has always denied assaulting Hannah but has never explained how she got those injuries. No charges were made against Browne, and there was no proper police investigation.

Having carried out my own investigation, my opinion - for what it's worth - is that Browne almost certainly didn't assault Hannah. I think that Hannah might have had an autistic rage episode* during which either she inflicted the injuries on herself, or she attacked Browne and was injured when he defended himself.

David Yaffe's 2017 biography of Mitchell, 'Reckless Daughter', based on extensive recorded conversations with her, shows that, 45 years after her brief relationship with Browne, she carries an intense and bitter hatred for him. Yaffe described 'Not to Blame' as 'a violent and personal attack'.

See also my comment (if it's still there) under Hejira's 'Song For Susan'. That song includes a coded implication that Browne caused the suicide of his first wife, Phyllis Major.

Major suffered extreme postnatal depression. She took an overdose of barbiturate sleeping pills. There's no corroboration whatsoever for Mitchell's suggestion in both 'Not to Blame' and 'Song For Sharon' that Browne drove her to it.

See, if you will, my blogpost about the rumour that Jackson Browne assaulted Daryl Hannah. It includes a detailed account of Mitchell's brief relationship with Browne, and its bitter aftermath.

Facebook won't let me give the URL, so: search for 'soothfairy browne hannah', and see Contents.