| Lists |

Big Yellow Taxi: Six Songs About Taxicabs

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

For poor kids, like myself growing up, a ride in a taxicab is a foreign adventure, particularly in Houston where it's not an especially necessary form of transportation like some other large cities such as New York.

For us, it's the closest we could probably ever get to having a chauffeur, other than our parents. With that in mind, riding in a cab still remains a rare and fascinating experience in my life when it happens.

Because my brain works exclusively on music, I started to think about songs involving this particular form of public transportation while taking a ride the other night. So here's a look at some of the songs I could think of where even rich and famous artists found subject matter in that common-man experience of riding in a cab.

6. Emile (written by Prince), "Annie Christian": In the chorus to this one, the original writer of the song Prince declares that he lives his entire life in taxicabs. While this is seemingly a metaphor of some kind -- the whole song is shrouded in some of Prince's deeper lyricism about a figurative antichrist that carries through all the tragic events in life -- it still goes through my head every time I get into a cab.

I had to use a cover here, because Prince doesn't like his own music being on YouTube. However, I think Emile did a really good job revamping Prince's original dance song into a very creepy chillwave song.

5. Harry Chapin, "Taxi": For this song, the "Cat's in the Cradle" writer came up with a story of a late-night run-in with an old flame while driving a taxi through the rain in 'Frisco. It's a classic example of the storyteller mode of songwriting, akin to Dylan before Chapin.

4. Vampire Weekend, "Taxi Cab: A song about a breakup, Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig here sings of a particular experience with a lost love, getting out of the taxi and seeing her wonderful life in a gated community. The words seem to convey that the relationship ended because she was a "real aristocrat" and therefore too good for him. He blames her, he blames himself, and it amounts to a very mature look at the failings of a relationship.

3. Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi":

"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot," Mitchell declares on this classic hit. The song is mostly an environmentalist protest song, but the most poignant verse comes when she explains the meaning of the title, singing of the day that a big yellow taxi came and took her father away from her.

2. Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Lady Cab Driver": Once again, the Artist would never allow this one to make it to YouTube, so take a look at a nice chilled-out cover by Me'Shell Ndegeocello.

As for the lyrics, Prince crafts a tale of being picked up by the titular lady cab driver and, because this is a Prince song, having sex with her, giving a long speech in the middle of the original's upbeat dance track about what he's giving her the pleasure of a night with him for.

1. Tori Amos, "Taxi Ride": Amos goes deep on this track, using the frame of an insignificant taxi to highlight injustices in society. This one is about a friend of hers that was dying and the world's uncaring attitude towards him, treating him like just another faceless taxi flying by.

It also seems to speak against society's attitude in general: They don't care for people who are dying, but they preach "we are one" and want trust funds for no reason other than wanting more money for themselves.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.