As Bob Dylan says in “Not Dark Yet,” “Can’t even remember what I came here to get away from…” and I feel kind of that same way about my life as an expatriate in Paris these past 17 years. In fact, this year is significant because it marks the time when I will have lived longer in Paris then I did in New York City. I’m a fool for love but also for numbers – everyone knows that beneath the romantic musician lives a stone cold mathematician – so I’m always adding things up, figuring them out, trying to balance it out. Let’s see, I passed my first 20 years or so basically in Garden City, Long Island although I did escape from time to time and spent much of 1968 on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands where I lay on the white sandy beaches gazing out on the bluest sea you can imagine and listening to radio reports of the riot at the Democratic convention in Chicago. Must confess, at that moment I was not wishing I was there, getting my head cracked by Mayor Daley’s finest but still I was drawn to the fray, knowing history was being made. And then in 1971 – 72 I spent a year or so in Europe singing on the streets, meeting Fellini for a moment and writing many of the songs that appeared on Aquashow two years later. Flew to San Francisco, got sick, came home, got better and by some miracle got a record deal.
When Aquashow came out I go an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and regretted it soon after. Wanted to live in Greenwich Village but couldn’t find my way in. Besides, Lou Reed was living not far so I thought it was cool to be among the bourgeoisie and Mick Jagger soon rented a townhouse across the street although I was never invited for tea and sympathy with him and Bianca. I stayed in New York until 1989 when I came to Paris thanks to my friend Garland Jeffreys. It was at Garland’s wedding that year when he asked me the toughest question in the world “What do you want to do with your life?” and in one brief moment of clarity I said “Move to Paris” and he said (and I nearly dropped) “I have a friend there who might rent her place to you.” Wham, bam, thank you ma’am – a few weeks later I was living on rue de Faubourg St. Antoine and starting to record my album 12 right in the apartment.
And now it seems that every interview asks me the same question: “Do you miss America?” and I reply cavalierly, “Well, yes I miss being in the American Culture soup but I can’t say that I miss any one place, neither New York nor Miami not Los Angeles where I wish I was living.” You see, I don’t miss living in New York because I did my time, paid my dues and moreover I survived and Paris is a more accommodating environment for any kind of artist to age gracefully. So I thought I was not sentimental, no not me, until the other night when I was watching one of my favorite movies Breakfast At Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn and “Moon River” was playing and I lost it right there during the opening scene where she gets out of a yellow taxi on New York’s 5th Avenue and stands in front of the jewelry display in a Tiffany window and sips hot coffee from a paper cup and eats a donut from a bag. I’m not ashamed to tell you, the tears started pouring down my cheeks and I couldn’t stop them because I knew that that part of my life was over and I would never again be young and in love with a city and its mythology like I was back in 1973. After all, I shot the cover to Aquashow in the Plaza Hotel where much of The Great Gatsby took place and all my dreams were there.
And something about Coming Home Again, my 29th album is drawing me back to America. All of a sudden, I’m filled with this urge to play there again in front of Americans just like me and I want this album to come out in the USA for everyone to hear. I haven’t felt this way in ages and I don’t know what it means or how the hell I can make that happen. But I got a feeling that I’ll be coming home again very soon and I hope some of you will be there waiting for me.
Paris, February 5, 2007
Photo by Laurent Pardo