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Just Who Is That 'Mean Old Daddy?'

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Just Who Is That 'Mean Old Daddy?'

Music

Just Who Is That 'Mean Old Daddy?'

Just Who Is That 'Mean Old Daddy?'

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68-year-old Cary Raditz recounts his side of the story behind Joni Mitchell's 1972 song about him.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This song may take you back a ways - say, about 43 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAREY")

JONI MITCHELL: (Singing) The wind is in from Africa. Last night, I couldn't sleep. Oh, you know, it sure is hard to leave you, Carey, but it's really not my home.

SIEGEL: That's Joni Mitchell, back when her voice was high and light. A helium voice is how she described it to today on Morning Edition. We're hearing from her this week because she's just released a box set - a retrospective of her career called "Love Has Many Faces." Joni Mitchell is 71 years old now. She was in her 20s when she wrote this song, and fans have often wondered what it's about. For starters, who is Carey - a friend, a muse? Is he even real? Turns out, he is.

CARY RADITZ: Hi, I'm Cary Raditz. I'm 68 years old.

SIEGEL: And he's an investment analyst now, living in the D.C. area. Back in his 20s, he met Joni Mitchell while living in a village on the island of Crete.

RADITZ: This is Matala. There was two tavernas - the Mermaid and the Delfini, where I worked.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAREY")

MITCHELL: (Singing) Come on down to the Mermaid Cafe, and I will buy you a bottle of wine.

RADITZ: So often we'd have Greek music, people throwing plates and glasses on the floor - opa (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAREY")

MITCHELL: (Singing) Let's have a round for these freaks and these soldiers, a round for these friends of mine. Let's have another round...

RADITZ: I resented her because a lot of my friends were turning into absolute fools and fawning all over Joni Mitchell. And so she was disturbing the tranquility of this little place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAREY")

MITCHELL: (Singing) Come on, Carey, get out your cane.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Singing) Carey, get out your cane.

MITCHELL: (Singing) And I'll put on some silk.

RADITZ: The first time I met her, she was seated at a table. I was serving people. And then she picked up all her trash from the table and came over to me. She cleaned up her table. And I just looked at it. You know, there's shards of broken glass and plates on the floor from last night. I just took it and threw it on the floor. (Laughter). Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAREY")

MITCHELL: (Singing) Oh, you're a mean old daddy, but I like you. I like you. I like you. I like you.

RADITZ: She caught me in a weak moment, and then we became friends after that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAREY")

MITCHELL: (Singing) Maybe I'll go to Amsterdam, or maybe I'll go to Rome.

RADITZ: So she gave me a present of this song. It was on my birthday. This was my 24th birthday. It was a goodbye song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAREY")

MITCHELL: (Singing) But let's not talk about fare-thee-wells now. The night is a starry dome.

RADITZ: There was a little bit of a sadness about that, but she was always leaving. And she'd change her mind, and we'd find something else to do or go traveling.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAREY")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Singing) Carey, get out your cane.

MITCHELL: (Singing) And I'll put on some silk.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Singing) I'll put on some silk.

RADITZ: Over the years, of course, like all poetry, it tends to grow within you. And it tends to take on your own personal meanings and shadings and other memories that become associated with it.

SIEGEL: That's Cary Raditz, the inspiration for Joni Mitchell's song "Carey," which first appeared on her album "Blue" in 1971. The song is also on her new box-set "Love Has Many Faces." Tune in tomorrow to hear the second part of Joni Mitchell's interview with Renee Montagne on Morning Edition.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAREY")

MITCHELL: (Singing) ...Clean white linen and that fancy French cologne. Oh, Carey, get out your cane.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Singing) Carey, get out your cane.

MITCHELL: (Singing) I'll put on my finest silk.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Singing) I'll put on my finest silk.

MITCHELL: (Singing) Go to the Mermaid Cafe, have fun tonight. I said, oh, you're a mean old daddy, but you're out of sight.

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