Song of the Day #4,117: ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell recorded this environmentally conscious classic in 1970, inspired by a 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,” she told an interviewer. “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.”

In the final verse, the theme of not knowing what you’ve got til it’s gone shifts from the natural world to her relationship with a man, who flees in the titular yellow taxi. A poignant twist in a song that’s serious in subject matter but playful in tone up until then.

[Verse 1]
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin’ hot spot

[Chorus]
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot
(Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop
Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop)

[Verse 2]
They took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em

[Chorus]
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot
(Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop
Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop)

[Verse 3]
Hey farmer, farmer, put away the DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees, please

[Chorus]
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot
(Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop
Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop)

[Verse 4]
Late last night, I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi took away my old man

[Chorus]
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot
(Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop)
I said, don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot
(Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop)
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot
(Shoo-bop-bop-bop-bop)
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,117: ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – Joni Mitchell

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    A great song. We also enjoy the Counting Crows cover: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=tvtJPs8IDgU

  2. Amy says:

    A tree museum. Joni is the best xo

    Love this song. Love how she effortlessly tackles complex issues without sacrificing her trademark sound. Love her.

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