Big Yellow Taxi (2:14)

Cover of 1972-02-23: New York, NY, USA

From 1972-02-23: New York, NY, USA and 16 other releases

“Big Yellow Taxi” is a song written and originally performed by Joni Mitchell.

Mitchell got the idea for the song during a visit to Hawaii. She looked out of her hotel window at the spectacular Pacific mountain scenery, and then down to a parking lot.

Joni 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 statement (from the lyrics “Paved paradise to put up a parking lot”, “Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now”) and sentimental sound. The line, “Took all the trees, 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”, referring to the old Toronto Police Service 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.

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