Big Yellow Taxi

Joni Mitchell: Big Yellow Taxi (original)

Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda

"They paved paradise, put up a parking lot."

"With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin' hot spot"

 "They took all the trees put 'em in a tree museum, and they charged the people a dollar an' a half just to see 'em"

"Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees."

 " Hey farmer, farmer put away that DDT now."

" And a big yellow taxi took away my old man."

artist:  Joni Mitchell

songwriter:  Joni Mitchell

date released:  1970 by Joni Mitchell

In 2007, "Big Yellow Taxi " was remixed and re-released by  Joni Mitchell with a new zydeco sound.  This is the version featured as the final performance of The Alberta Ballet's production of The Fiddle and The Drum

The genesis of "Big Yellow Taxi" was written up in an article in the Vancouver Sun on The Alberta Ballet's production of "The Fiddle and The Drum."  Joni Mitchell is quoted as saying: "they paved paradise, put up a parking lot" What inspired it?  

"I think it was in 1976," says Mitchell, 66. "I went to visit some friends who were playing in Hawaii.  I came in at night, went to a big hotel, woke up in the morning, pulled back the curtains and saw green mountains and white birds flying along with white tails.  Then I looked down as far as the eye could see (sic) there was a parking lot.  So it wrote it that morning.  It's like a nursery rhyme. When it was released, only in Hawaii was it an original hit."

What's it like to write a line that is repeated every day, all over the world, decades later?

"Well, it's done some good, she says.  People have sent me some pictures from places:  'Look, Joni, this used to be a parking lot, we turned it into a city garden.'  So in its small way, it has done some actual urban revival.  I heard the mayor here [in L.A. use it] recently.  They loaned their technology for cleaning up the LA River to Seoul, Korea, and they said, 'You can unpave paradise.'  So you hear it around.  It's been a utilitarian slogan.  It's been a good little workhorse.  But it's a nursery rhyme, and like all nursery rhymes, it's cheerful [even though it deals with a serious topic].