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Big Yellow Taxi -- Joni Mitchell

Guest poem submitted by Arun Simha:
(Poem #1005) Big Yellow Taxi
 They paved paradise
 And put up a parking lot
 With a pink hotel, a boutique
 And a swinging hot spot


   Don't it always seem to go
   That you don't know what you've got
   Till it's gone
   They paved paradise
   And put up a parking lot

 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


 Hey farmer farmer
 Put away that DDT now
 Give me spots on my apples
 But leave me the birds and the bees


 Late last night
 I heard the screen door slam
 And a big yellow taxi
 Took away my old man

       [Chorus etc.]
-- Joni Mitchell
Legendary songwriter/singer, Joni Mitchell wrote the lyrics of this song in
the late 60s. It is popularly believed that the 'paradise' mentioned in this
song refers to Hawaii.

I can quite relate to the angst felt by the poet, for I had the very same
experience recently. I live in Sunnyvale, CA, which is a part of the area
known as Silicon Valley. Three decades ago, Sunnyvale had an idyllic farming
community. I have heard long time residents of California state that they
used to travel to Sunnyvale to buy fruits from its famous orchards.

When I came here in the early 90's from India, it still had a few remnants
of those famous orchards. Alas, the last one has had its curtain call.
Olson's cherry farm which is right at the intersection between El Camino
Real and Mathilda, had been laid to rest after a glorious innings lasting
103 years. A few months ago, the farm seemed like an incongrous oasis
hanging on to life by a thread amidst the mighty gale of industrialization.
Today, they've actually paved the farm and made it into a parking lot. A
shopping mall looks with arrogant disdain at the small "Olson's fruit stand"
which is but a temporary stall for the people who sold the farm. The heart
of the farm, where cherries once blossomed, is where a retail bookstore has
found its bearings. Mr. Olson has recently written a book about his farm,
which has nostalgic pictures of the past and to top the irony, he is going
to sign these books at the very same bookstore.

I moved to Sunnyvale from Bangalore, India which has had its share of
unhindered urban growth in the last two decades. It does seem that
everywhere you look, they're paving paradise to build parking lots.



Joni Mitchell Discussion list:
Joni Mitchell page:
San Jose Mercury News (
 [Article, January 22, 2002: Cherry Stand Ends An Era]

48 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

LCK1953 said...



Sandra Bullock selected this song in here movie "Two Weeks Notice". It has got a nice romantic rhythm, which I downloaded to practice. Thanks
-- Raj

raymeds said...

Did you know rha Mitchell began smoking at the age of nine as well, a habit which is arguably one of the factors contributing to the change in her voice in recent years?????

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Joni Mitchell was such a talented lyricist, it's interesting to hear how these words carry so much resonance for you!

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