Big Yellow Taxi covers, from A to Z

Cover from the single release of "Big Yellow Taxi," from the Joni Mitchell album, "Ladies of the Canyon." Wikipedia image.

Cover from the single release of “Big Yellow Taxi,” from the Joni Mitchell album, “Ladies of the Canyon.” Wikipedia image.

I was looking for lyrics to a Joni Mitchell tune.  I discovered she has a very good website.

She lists bands and performances that covered “Big Yellow Taxi.” Silly thing to notice, but it’s a long list.  A veerrrrrrrry long list.  It looks like she’s been covered on that one song by bands with names starting with every letter in the alphabet.

Well, once I noticed that, I had to check.  No band with a name starting with O, Q, or X has covered the song.  The other 23 letters are all represented.  Oh, but she lists bands whose names start with “the,” and there is a band named “The Quality Kids.”  Does that count as Q?  Nearly 230 different covers of the song all together.

Does that count as success?

Here’s Joni singing “Big Yellow Taxi” herself, in 1970 (39 years ago!  as long ago as Jack Benny is old), at a festival at the Isle of Wight.

[Isle of Wight Festival video not available in U.S. at the moment; BBC tape substituted, below, March 2016]

P.S. — Mitchell also has a page that counts the covers.  “Big Yellow Taxi” is #2 in most recorded, at 228 covers.  #1 is “Both Sides Now,” with 615 covers.



5 Responses to Big Yellow Taxi covers, from A to Z

  1. Bob Muller says:

    Hi Ed – I would like to think that the onsite promotion for her merchandise (CD’s, DVD’s, Books etc) results in a significant gain for her. She is not associated with the site and neither her nor her management support it in any way. It’s labor of love from her fans and we support it through our donations.


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Bob, if you ever get back here, I’m very curious: Does Ms. Mitchell get significant gain from having the site on the web, either economically or logistically? It’s an awfully good idea, it seems to me, and that site works because its done so well and has so much material of interest to just about any fan. But did someone do an ROI on it, and is it hitting its marks?



  3. Bob Muller says:

    Hi! I’m the guy who has researched and currently maintains the Covers section at Joni, and yes Big Yellow Taxi has been covered by A LOT of folks. (But a distant 2nd place to Both Sides Now). It’s been re-positioned in the public eye several times, most recently by Amy Grant and of course by Counting Crows, who surprisingly first included it as a hidden track on Hard Candy without Vanessa Carlton’s added vocal. THAT cover has spawned 40-50 additional covers, including many collegiate acapella groups.
    Anyway, thanks for the good words about, it is a very impressive site!


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Counting Crows’ version is one I particularly like for the harmonic twist they throw in on the refrain. I do wish the woman singing the harmony didn’t have such an adenoid problem, though.

    Years ago I read a short piece by a guy who was in an elevator with Joni Mitchell when the Muzak version of “Clouds” came over the music system. Someone complimented her on the song, and she said “I didn’t write that.”

    It took me a long time to get over the fact that she wrote “Woodstock.” I first heard the tune on the CSN&Y album. It was months, maybe years before I heard Mitchell’s version. It’s interesting to me that the same song can have such different personalities.

    I was in a band once where the guitarist rearranged Gershwin’s “Summertime,” putting it into a major key, and swinging it a lot. Gershwin probably rolled over in his grave. It was danceable, and very upbeat. Fascinating.


  5. twoblueday says:

    I arrived here via Cafe Philos.

    I was thinking about covers recently, as I frequently do, and particularly “Big Yellow Taxi” and its cover by Counting Crows. I do not like that cover, and said so. A friend felt differently.

    Good covers are some of my favorite listening experiences, most recently Mike Zito doing “Little Red Corvette.”

    I am a fan of Ms. Mitchell’s work, and am still amazed by her creativity and performing talent.


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