Joni Mitchell on 'green' hypocrisy
Joni Mitchell, whose song â€œBig Yellow Taxiâ€ is the closest thing weâ€™ve ever had to an environmental anthem, says sheâ€™s bothered by â€œgreenâ€ hypocrisy.
Mitchell said that she wrote that song in a hotel in Hawaii. She looked down from her balcony at the stretch of asphalt below, and that phrase, "They paved paradise, put up a parking lot," sprang to mind. She says the chords came just as naturally.
"'Big Yellow Taxi' is basically a nursery rhyme, but it is also Chuck Berry, but with my voice. Sometimes you wouldn't recognize, necessarily, the influences because they are not imitative, per se. Rock-n-roll was just boogie-woogie played on guitar. It's like a Chuck Berry song in form and rhythm and everything; it is basically in that genre."
We use Joni Mitchell's phrase about paving paradise all of the time when we talk about woods or farms or small towns giving way to sprawl. At this point it's an idiom. And, as for Joni, she gets annoyed with what she finds in hotels.
"I am staying in a hotel that says it's green. It has got this card by the bed, 'We're green, we are conserving water, if you want your sheets changed put this on the bed. But, they've got all of these electrical buttons to pull all of the curtains. You know, give me back a pull cord."
Support PRI when you purchase Joni Mitchell's album "Ladies of the Canyon," that features "Big Yellow Taxi," from Amazon.com.PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy — so let "Studio 360" steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.