Friday, August 27, 2010

Joni Mitchell: Big Yellow Taxi

I got thinking about this song because our house is being purchased by my employer to be torn down to make way for a parking lot or a green space. They are not sure just yet, but the idea of a parking lot made me think of Joni Mitchell’s song. It wasn’t until I started listening to this tune that I realized that since 1970, I thought she and others were singing “the pink paradise” but rather she is singing “the paved paradise.”

While the original studio version from “Ladies of the Canyon” is not available on YouTube, a live version from 1970 will have to suffice. Joni’s original of her composition which many will remember is not the highest charting version of the song. This original, and our Friday First feature, only peaked at #67. A later live version charted in 1975 for the songwriter making it the highest charting version of the tune in the US at #24. On this version Joni has her guitar tuned to a open D and is capoed at the fourth fret making the song in F#.

More Recent Live Version

As our voices lower as we get older, Joni has dropped the capo in more recent years and no longer sings the song in F# but rather in D. Here she accompanies herself on an electric guitar and does an impromptu Bob Dylan impersonation.

The Neighborhood

Besides Joni’s live version in 1975, there may be conjecture on what version may have been the most popular studio version of the song. Amy Grant’s 1994 release mirrored Joni Mitchell’s original release by only peaking at #67. Counting Crows also released a single of “Big Yellow Taxi” in 2003, but it only peaked in the US at #42. The version I remember is the one released by the Neighborhood during the summer of 1970. It was the best performing studio version of “Big Yellow Taxi” with a peak at #29.


  1. I think the line is actually "THEY paved paradise..." Her Dylan immitation may be in reference to the cover he did on the contractual obligation album "Dylan".

  2. Thanks Mike. I believe you are right on both accounts.