Sunday, 5 October 2014

Big yellow taxi. . .

My appreciation of Joni Mitchell came when I taught singing at a contemporary music studio in my early 20s.  The young girl who I was teaching at the time was a huge fan of folk singer/songwriters - Joan Baez, Judy Collins, including Joni Mitchell and groups like The Seekers and The Mama and the Papas.  The interesting thing to note for me at the time was that her parents didn't know where she got her taste in music as they didn't play folk music while she was growing up.

This brought home to me the exciting prospect of discovering things for yourself that is unique to you - not something that is taught to you, or influenced by others - but that when you hear music, experience something, taste something different - it awakens your ears in a way that you feel like you're only just starting to hear for the very first time and now understand why you have ears to hear.
New mental images are now forever ingrained in your memory and will play back to you when you take those private trips down memory lane and even when your tastebuds come alive for the very first time when you've tasted something that you instantly know will be one of your favourite foods for life and will become a source of comfort.

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot

You can't help but think that Big Yellow Taxi highlights in an ever changing world that the  development of civilised societies has a way of ridding itself of the fundamentals of nature.  We forget to enjoy what we have because we're fixated on the future of what is to come, or think that we are onto something that will be of more value, more benefit or make even more profit.

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em

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

We forget to enjoy things in their natural setting.  In an effort to make things better or improve their current contexts or situations - we will take things away from their natural habitat and expect them to flourish - but what happens when it doesn't flourish?  Do we recognise our mistakes and immediately return things back to their original habitat or do we try to seek ways to force the transition to occur?

I like the reference to leaving the birds and the bees - it implies to me that Joni doesn't want the DDT to affect them, but that despite the face value nature connotation of the birds and the bees, the idea that the birds and the bees have become that awkward phrase.  You know the one.  When your parents pull you aside and discuss how relationships, reproduction and restraint work through your adolescence.

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

I often wondered where her old man went.
It would have raised alarm bells with me if he had been taken away by a police car.
So the old man wasn't in trouble.
But if a big yellow taxi came, it tells me that he had planned to leave, because you have to hail a taxi or at least order one to come and pick you up to drive you to your destination.
I hope he didn't leave because he couldn't handle all of the development that was going on around him.

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. . . 

I hope that whatever you have or who you have in your life that is about to gone (sometimes you can't predict these things - it just happens) that you cherish the moments with them as if they were your last.  They can often by replaced (by no design of your own) with other things, other people that seek to replace, but it is totally up to you how long it takes for you to be at peace with it being. . . gone. .