BIG YELLOW TAXI

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs

BIG YELLOW TAXI

“Big Yellow Taxi” is a song written, composed, and originally recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1970, and originally released on her album Ladies of the Canyon. It was a hit in her native Canada (No. 14) as well as Australia (No. 6) and the UK (No. 11). It only reached No. 67 in the US in 1970, but was later a bigger hit there for her in a live version released in 1974, which peaked at No. 24. Charting versions have also been recorded by The Neighborhood (who had the original top US 40 hit with the track in 1970, peaking at No. 29), Maire Brennan, Amy Grant and Counting Crows.
The song is known for its environmental concern – “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot” and “Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now” – and sentimental sound. The line “They took all the trees, and put ’em in a tree museum / And charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em” refers to Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu, which is a living museum of tropical plants, some rare and endangered.
In the song’s final verse, the political gives way to the personal. Mitchell recounts the departure of her “old man” in the titular “big yellow taxi,” which may refer to the old Metro Toronto Police patrol cars, which until 1986 were painted yellow. In many covers the departed one may be interpreted as variously a boyfriend, a husband or a father. The literal interpretation is that he is walking out on the singer by taking a taxi; otherwise it is assumed he is being taken away by the authorities.

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
And put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half to seem ’em
No no no
Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Hey farmer farmer
Put away the DDT
I don’t care about spots on my apples
Leave me the birds and the bees
Please!
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Hey, now they paved paradise
To put up a parking lot
Why not?
Listenin’ late…