Song Lyrics

Night of the Iguana

by Joni Mitchell

Printer-friendly version of this lyric

The tour bus came yesterday
The driver's a mess today
It's a dump of a destiny
But it's got a view...
Now the kid in the see-through blouse
Is moving in hard on his holy vows...
Since the preacher's not dead
Dead drunk will have to do!

Night of the iguana
The jasmine is so mercilessly sweet
Night of the iguana
Can you hear the castanets?
The widow is dancing
Down on the beach

The starlight is steaming
He'd like to be dreaming
His senses are screaming
Not to be denied...
But if the spell of the night should win
He could lose his bus
For the same sweet sin
That took his church from him
Then how will he survive?

Night of the iguana
The jasmine is so mercilessly sweet
Night of the iguana
Can you hear the castanets?
It's the widow and her lover-boys
Down on the beach

The night is so fragrant
These women so flagrant
They could make him a vagrant
With the flick of a shawl.
The devil's in sweet sixteen
The widow's good looking but she gets mean
He's burning like Augustine
With no help from God at all

© 2007; Crazy Crow Music


As told to Dan Ouellette:

This is loosely based on the film of the same name [director John Huston's 1964 screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play] where Richard Burton plays the role of an alcoholic preacher who loses his church because he was seduced by a woman. But he's not defrocked of his clerical collar. He ends up leading a bus tour to Mexico that stops in a funky, rundown place where once again he has to deal with temptation. The song fits in with the theological/ecological theme of the album.

I added cello and sax and then electric guitar into the mix after I had the tune itself. Then I had Brian Blade come in to hit really hard on his drums, and Larry Klein play out the bass sketch I had written."


Log in to make a comment

eas22 on

I agree Loosagal8, the song Hana does sound like it's describing Hannah Jelkes!

Loosagal8 on

Inspired by Joni to watch the movie of Tennessee Williams' play, Night of the Iguana, I have been reading about that play. Does anyone who remembers the character of Hannah Jelkes think that Joni's HANA is based on that character? TW says "She is a very, very modest person, Hannah, and in that sense, to me, a very beautiful person......almost as a definition of what I think is most beautifully spiritual in a person and still believable." From an interview with Studs Terkel, 1961.