Big Yellow Taxi

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"Big Yellow Taxi"
Single by Joni Mitchell
from the album Ladies of the Canyon
Released July 1970
Format 7"
Recorded 1970
Length 2:16
Label Reprise
Writer(s) Joni Mitchell
Producer(s) Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell singles chronology
"Big Yellow Taxi"
"Big Yellow Taxi"
Single by Máire Brennan
from the album Misty Eyed Adventures
Released 1993
Format CD single
Writer(s) Joni Mitchell
Máire Brennan singles chronology
"Jealous Heart"
"Big Yellow Taxi"
"You're the One"
"Big Yellow Taxi"
Single by Amy Grant
from the album House of Love
Released May 1994
Length 3:01
Label A&M
Writer(s) Joni Mitchell
Producer(s) Keith Thomas
Amy Grant singles chronology
"Say You'll Be Mine"
"Big Yellow Taxi"
"Oh How the Years Go By"
"Big Yellow Taxi"
Single by Counting Crows featuring Vanessa Carlton
from the album Hard Candy
Released March 2003
Format CD single
Recorded 2002
Genre Pop rock
Length 3:47
Label Geffen
Writer(s) Joni Mitchell
Producer(s) Steve Lilywhite
Counting Crows singles chronology
"Big Yellow Taxi"
"If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead)"

"Big Yellow Taxi" is a song written and originally recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1970. 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 1975, 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.

Mitchell's composition and recording[edit]

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3] 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 No. 24 on the U.S. charts. Mitchell's playful closing vocals have made the song one of the most identifiable in her repertoire, still receiving significant airplay in Canada. In 2005, it was voted No. 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[edit]

Many other artists have covered the song.

Lyrics variations[edit]

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". Similarly, in Mitchell's live version of the song released on Miles of Aisles in 1974, she sings about "a big yellow tractor" that "pushed around my house, pushed around my land". She then repeats the same verse, but with the original lyrics.

Parking lot in Leesport, Pennsylvania

While Amy Grant retains the taxi, her final reprise of the line about "paved paradise" reads "steam rolled paradise".

Music video[edit]

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[edit]

Joni Mitchell version[edit]

  1. "Big Yellow Taxi" (“Friends” Album Version)
  2. "Big Yellow Taxi" (Radio Mix)
  3. "Big Yellow Taxi" (N.Y. Cab To Club Mix)
  4. "Big Yellow Taxi" (Tribal Dub)
  5. "Big Yellow Taxi" (Late Night Club Mix)
  6. "Big Yellow Taxi" (Double Espresso NRG Mix)

The Neighborhood version[edit]

  1. "Big Yellow Taxi"

Máire Brennan version[edit]

  1. "Big Yellow Taxi"
  2. "Days Of The Dancing"
  3. "Dream On"

Amy Grant versions[edit]

  1. "Big Yellow Taxi" - Paradise Mix
  2. "Big Yellow Taxi" - Alternative Paradise Mix
  3. "Big Yellow Taxi" - LP Version

Counting Crows version[edit]

  1. "Big Yellow Taxi"
  2. "Big Yellow Taxi II"
  3. "If I Could Give All My Love"/"Richard Manuel Is Dead" (Acoustic / Live)
  4. "Hard Candy" (Acoustic / Live)
  5. "Big Yellow Taxi" (Multimedia Track)

Pinhead Gunpowder version[edit]

  1. "Big Yellow Taxi" (punk version)



  1. ^ 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." 
  2. ^ Mattison, Shane. "Tree museum". Lyric Glossary. Archived from the original on 2008-06-16. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  3. ^ "Getting Around". A History of Policing in Toronto. Toronto Police Service. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Counting Crows Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Counting Crows. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
  7. ^ "Counting Crows Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Counting Crows. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
  8. ^ "Counting Crows Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Pop Songs for Counting Crows. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
  9. ^ "Counting Crows Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Adult Pop Songs for Counting Crows. Retrieved 2010-09-17.

External links[edit]