"Big Yellow Taxi" is a song written and originally recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1970. It was a hit in her native Canada (#14) as well as Australia (#6) and the UK (#11). It only reached #67 in the US in 1970, but was later a bigger hit there for her in a live version released in 1975, which peaked at #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 #29), Maire Brennan, Amy Grant, and Counting Crows.
Mitchell's composition and recording 
Mitchell said this about writing the song to journalist Alan McDougall in the early 1970s:
I wrote 'Big Yellow Taxi' on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart... this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song.
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 that 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.
Mitchell's original recording was first put out as a single and then was put on the album Ladies of the Canyon in 1970. A later live version was released in 1975 and reached #24 on the U.S. charts. Mitchell's playful closing lyrics have made the song one of the most identifiable in her repertoire, still receiving significant airplay in Canada. In 2005, it was voted #9 on CBC's list of the top 50 essential Canadian tracks.
In 2007, Joni Mitchell released the album Shine that includes a newly recorded, re-arranged version of the song.
Cover versions 
Many other artists have covered the song.
- A single version by the singing group The Neighborhood reached the Billboard Top 40 chart (#29) in the summer of 1970.
- Joe Dassin "Le Grand Parking" (French Cover) in 1970 from the album La Fleur aux Dents.
- Bob Dylan's cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" was recorded in 1970 and released in 1973.
- Pinhead Gunpowder cover the song on their 1994 album Jump Salty.
- In 1995, Amy Grant released a cover of "Big Yellow Taxi" to pop and Adult Contemporary radio in the United States and United Kingdom. The song was the fourth pop radio single from her House of Love album (the third in the U.S.). Grant's version featured slightly altered lyrics, which she changed at Joni Mitchell's request. The single peaked at #67 on The Billboard Hot 100, #18 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and at #20 in the U.K. Grant also released a music video for the single, which was aired in the U.S. and U.K. and released to home video on Grant's Greatest Videos 1986-2004 DVD.
- In 1996 a "Big Yellow Taxi (Traffic Jam Mix)" peaked on the U.S. dance charts at #39 and was part of the Friends: Music from the TV Series soundtrack album (see Joni Mitchell's Singles and External links).
- The song is sampled in Janet Jackson and Q-Tip's single "Got 'Til It's Gone", from Jackson's 1997 album The Velvet Rope.
- CKBE-FM David Tyler.
- Counting Crows featuring Vanessa Carlton (on back-up vocals) cover of the song is featured on the soundtrack to the movie Two Weeks Notice and is the most successful version to date (U.S. Billboard Adult Top 40). Originally the song was a hidden track on the band's 2002 album Hard Candy and did not include Vanessa Carlton until it was to be featured in the movie. New releases of the album included it as a track with her added, as with her in the video, although Counting Crows and Vanessa Carlton did not appear in the video together or record together. This song became the band's only Top 20 single in the UK, peaking at #13. This version slightly changed Mitchell's original lyrics to describe when the eponymous taxi took "my girl" away, instead of Mitchell's "my old man".
- This song is sampled by Labrinth in the song "Sundown" from his debut 2012 album Electronic Earth.
Lyrics variations 
There are various slight alterations of the lyrics from different versions. Joni Mitchell's original version runs
They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em
while in Amy Grant's version, the people are charged "twenty-five bucks", and in Joni Mitchell's 2007 re-recording the people are charged "an arm and a leg".
Bob Dylan instead of singing about the "big yellow taxi" that "took away my old man" sings "A big yellow bulldozer took away the house and land". While Amy Grant retains the taxi, her final reprise of the line about "paved paradise" reads "steam rolled paradise".
Music video 
An animated music video of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" was produced by John Wilson of Fine Arts Films as an animated short for the Sonny and Cher TV show in the mid 1970s. The only commercial release of this full-length music video was in the Video Gems home video release on VHS titled John Wilson's Mini Musicals but also released as The All Electric Music Movie. The home video also contains an animated music video of Joni Mitchell's song "Both Sides Now".
Track listings 
The Neighborhood version 
- "Big Yellow Taxi"
Joni Mitchell version 
- "Big Yellow Taxi" (“Friends” Album Version)
- "Big Yellow Taxi" (Radio Mix)
- "Big Yellow Taxi" (N.Y. Cab To Club Mix)
- "Big Yellow Taxi" (Tribal Dub)
- "Big Yellow Taxi" (Late Night Club Mix)
- "Big Yellow Taxi" (Double Espresso NRG Mix)
Máire Brennan version 
- "Big Yellow Taxi"
- "Days Of The Dancing"
- "Dream On"
Amy Grant versions 
- "Big Yellow Taxi" - Paradise Mix
- "Big Yellow Taxi" - Alternative Paradise Mix
- "Big Yellow Taxi" - LP Version
Counting Crows version 
- "Big Yellow Taxi"
- "Big Yellow Taxi II"
- "If I Could Give All My Love"/"Richard Manuel Is Dead" (Acoustic / Live)
- "Hard Candy" (Acoustic / Live)
- "Big Yellow Taxi" (Multimedia Track)
Pinhead Gunpowder version 
- "Big Yellow Taxi" (punk version)
Joni Mitchell version 
Amy Grant version 
Counting Crows/Vanessa Carlton version 
- ^ Hilburn, Robert (December 8, 1996). "Both Sides, Later". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA: Tribune Company). ISSN 0458-3035. OCLC 3638237. Retrieved May 19, 2012. "With the release of two 'best of' albums, Joni Mitchell looks back at her hits--and misses--and the artistry that's earning renewed recognition."
- ^ Mattison, Shane. "Tree museum". Lyric Glossary. JoniMitchell.com. Archived from the original on 2008-06-16. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
- ^ "Getting Around". A History of Policing in Toronto. Toronto Police Service. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dylan_(1973_album)
- ^ Gubbins, Teresa (September 4, 1994). "Life In The Slow Lane". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL, USA: Tribune Company). ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 43891617. Retrieved May 19, 2012.
- ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/vmwx
- ^ "Counting Crows Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Counting Crows. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
- ^ "Counting Crows Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Radio Songs for Counting Crows. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2012-05-13.
- ^ "Counting Crows Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs for Counting Crows. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
- ^ "Counting Crows Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Pop Songs for Counting Crows. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
- ^ "Counting Crows Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Adult Pop Songs for Counting Crows. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2011)
External links