Big Yellow Taxi is the first song from Canadian singer songwriter Joni Mitchell to appear in the music library project. I was introduced to Joni’s music when she appeared on The Band’s legendary concert ‘The Last Waltz’. Joni is an extremely original and authentic artist. She’s a pioneer of sorts in the female folk scene and Rolling Stone described her ‘as one of the greatest songwriters ever’. Her 1971 album Blue is often cited as one of the best albums of all time although today’s song Big Yellow Taxi is not from that record; it’s from her 1970 Ladies of the Canyon.
Joni speaks her mind and has sometimes found herself in hot water doing so. For instance she was reported by the LA times for saying Bob Dylan was a plagiarist, then in a later interview she denied having said it. But she did say that Bob just pulled songs out of a box and that he was ‘a bad guitar player and he’s got a lot of borrowed things’.
Big Yellow Taxi is one of Joni’s most recognisable tunes. According to wikipedia: 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. The song is known for its environmental concern:
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
The above lines refers to the Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu, which is a living museum of tropical plants, some rare and endangered…. There are various slight alterations of the lyrics from different versions. 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.” Bob Dylan’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” was recorded in 1970 and released in 1973 on Dylan.