Song Lyrics

Nathan La Franeer

by Joni Mitchell

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I hired a coach to take me
from confusion to the plane
And though we shared a common space
I know I'll never meet again
The driver with his eyebrows furrowed in the rear-view mirror
I read his name and it was plainly written Nathan La Franeer
I asked him would he hurry
But we crawled the canyons slowly
Thru the buyers and the sellers
Thru the burglar bells and the wishing wells
With gangs and girly shows
The ghostly garden grows

The cars and buses bustled thru the bedlam of the day
I looked thru window-glass at streets
and Nathan grumbled at the grey
I saw an aging cripple selling Superman balloons
The city grated thru chrome-plate
The clock struck slowly half-past-noon
Thru the tunnel tiled and turning
Into daylight once again I am escaping
Once again goodbye
To symphonies and dirty trees
With parks and plastic clothes
The ghostly garden grows

He asked me for a dollar more
He cursed me to my face
He hated everyone who paid to ride
And share his common space
I picked my bags up from the curb
And stumbled to the door
Another man reached out his hand
Another hand reached out for more
And I filled it full of silver
And I left the fingers counting
And the sky goes on forever
Without meter maids and peace parades
You feed it all your woes
The ghostly garden grows

© April 1, 1968; Siquomb Publishing Co

Transcriptions of Nathan La Franeer

Nathan La Franeer has been recorded by 5 other artists


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Pierce on

Still got that '74 songbook. Only now figured out the actual chords to this one. Turns out it's in open G. Hurts my index finger though.
I couldn't figure the painting that went with the lyrics in the book: the back of the head of the cabdriver; the shades of blue; the young woman in the reflection. It sent me on a flight of fancy and I found myself hurrying through the highrise canyons of Detroit in 1967 and the tunnel to Windsor to the airport to catch a plane to New York.

And the sky goes on forever...

Skye Gray on

This was not a favorite of mine when I was 14. But now that I'm (way) older, I am absolutely astonished at the quality of the lyrics to Nathan La Franeer - "The sky goes on forever without meter maids or peace parades. You feed it all your woes, the ghostly garden grows." So sorrowful and eerie. It resonates with me now in a way that would have been impossible in my youth.

georgecobbold on

Love the wailing instrument xx

PoetryMan11 on

Although this song is great alone, when listened to as a medly with Marcie (as it appears on the album with Marcie first) they are a kind of musical rhymed couplet and mini-concerto of a lonely oddslot girl in a big city making her inglorious retreat to somewhere. This is musical synergy at its best.
You can hear it as I mentioned at:
The sound is messy on sustained notes but Joni's lyric interpretation just shines through that technical issue.   [ed.]  [ed.]