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Colony Collapse Disorder? Joni Mitchell's song warned of danger to the bees.

Updated on October 29, 2015

The hit song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell

In Joni Mitchell's hit song Big Yellow Taxi she sang: "Hey, farmer, farmer, put away your DDT, give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees, please."

And she warned in the chorus line:"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone." Sadly her song has proved prophetic in the case of honeybees that are on the decline worldwide.

They are dying out because of what has been termed "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD), and one of the theorised reasons for it is the use of pesticides.

Big Yellow Taxi

Big Yellow Taxi
Big Yellow Taxi

Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell in Concert 1970

Joni Mitchell is a Canadian singer-songwriter

Big Yellow Taxi, an environmental protest, is just one subject covered in Joni Mitchell's long song-writing career. She is another singer-songwriter from Canada, the country that has also given us Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot and many others.

Joni gained success as a songwriter in the mid-sixties when songs of hers were recorded by other established acts including Judy Collins, who had a big hit in 1967 with Mitchell's Both Sides Now. Collins also recorded a cover of Joni Mitchell's Chelsea Morning .

David Crosby

In 1968, Joni got a deal with the Reprise record label and her debut album known as Joni Mitchell or Song to a Seagull was released. This followed a helping hand from David Crosby of The Byrds and later of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It was Crosby that convinced Reprise bosses that they should sign her.

The year later, the album Clouds followed, and included Joni Mitchell's own versions of Chelsea Morning and Both Sides Now . In 1970, Mitchell was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance for this album.

Joni Mitchell had painted the artwork for both her albums and being a gifted artist is another side of Joni Mitchell's career and talents.

MItchell appeared live at both Woodstock and the Isle of Wight festivals.


Her version of the song Woodstock was included on her third album Ladies of the Canyon, that came out in 1970. Big Yellow Taxi was another track on the album as well as being released as hit single.

The super-group Crosby, Stills and Nash also recorded Joni's song Woodstock, and appeared at the massive festival of the same name.

Blue was Joni Mitchell's fourth album. It was released in 1971 and is considered her finest work by many people. Songs include Carey, The Last Time I Saw Richard and A Case of You .

Besides her distinctive and beautiful voice and her lyrics, Joni Mitchell's unique style of guitar-playing was another part of her successful formula as a singer-songwriter and performer. She often used open tunings and a rhythmic style. There have been many women singer-songwriters who have copied Joni Mitchell over the years.

In 1972, Joni Mitchell's fifth album For The Roses was released.

In 1974, her album Court and Spark marked a change of direction for her and was als o her most successful album, peaking at number one in the Cashbox charts at the time.

She had moved away from her folksy style to incorporate jazz and jazz fusion into her music. It spawned hit singles that included Help Me that peaked at number seven in the singles charts and was her highest position for a singles record.

Joni Mitchell went on to record many other albums and to take part in collaborations with other acts including Willie Nelson and Tom Petty. Very many artists have named Joni Mitchell as a big influence on their own work.


Madonna, though you probably wouldn't guess, counts Mitchell as one of her musical mentors. She is quoted by Wikipedia as saying:

"I was really, really into Joni Mitchell. I knew every word to Court and Spark; I worshiped her when I was in high school. Blue is amazing. I would have to say of all the women I've heard, she had the most profound effect on me from a lyrical point of view."


Very sadly, Joni Mitchell has had to retire from the music business and is currently being treated for the controversial Morgellons disease that she is suffering from. The disease is characterised by a crawling sensation felt by sufferers and strange coloured fibres that emerge from the skin.

Traditional medical science has refused to accept Morgellons as a real illness, and people suffering from it had been labelled as "delusional", however, the number of sufferers has increased over the years and Joni Mitchell has become the most high profile person with the syndrome.

The LA Times on April 22, 2010, quoted Mitchell as saying: "I have this weird, incurable disease that seems like it's from outer space, but my health's the best it's been in a while."

She fully intends to beat Morgellons and is going to use her celebrity status to give credibility to this new illness that has not been given the recognition needed.

© 2010 Steve Andrews


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    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for commenting!

    • A Dane in Spain profile image

      Dorte Holm Jensen 

      7 years ago from Torrox, Malaga. Spain

      Brilliant hub, Bard. Reading about the honey bees gave me goosebumps, as I have just watched a movie about Nostrademus'predictions for this millennium ... and famine caused by the honey bees dieing out was one of the predictions.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for commenting!

    • road2hell profile image


      7 years ago from Linden, AB

      Well, I learn a lot about that song I didn't know before. Certainly, a song ahead of its time.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for posting!

    • StephenSMcmillan profile image


      7 years ago

      Fascinating article. I enjoyed reading.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting, MKayo! You will find loads about Morgellons.

    • MKayo profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      Sad, really. That money and profit are so important to some in this world. Good info, I'll check out the Morgellons info on Google.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Dahoglund, but don't let this put you off! There is so much more you can say about her!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I was going to write about Joni Mitchell but you have done such a good job of it mine would seem redundant.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for your feedback!

    • nextstopjupiter profile image


      8 years ago from here, there and everywhere

      I've been always a big Joni Mitchell fan, my favorite is her Mingus album. It is sad that she suffers from such a terrible disease.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting that info, KKalmes!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello Bard, I am so sorry to hear about Joni's battle with this bizarre disease... love her Yellow Taxi.

      Loved to hear about release of album...

      "Safaris to the Heart: The Songs Of Joni Mitchell" is being released today March 22nd. Recorded, in part, at the SoCal JoniFest 2009, this CD features San Diego's finest. Place your order here. Partial proceeds go to support


      "Joni's version of "All I Want" will be included on the soundtrack to the film "The Kids Are All Right", starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. August 3rd is the scheduled release date."

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for your feedback! I saw her at the IOW!

    • WE5 profile image


      8 years ago


      Interesting Hub...I too have never heard of Morgellons! Joni is truly a gifted artist and a very interesting person.

      Did she appear at Woodstock? I thought I read somewhere that she was actually in New York at the time for a gig and was unable to make it and that she was inspired to write the song through her friendship with CSN&Y and television coverage of the traffic.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, EM! Please investigate Morgellons!

    • TruthAwake profile image


      8 years ago from The Dirty South

      That's an awesome observation, and I absolutely love Joni Mitchell, thanks for this article. =)

    • E M Smith profile image

      E M Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Never heard of morgellons. I still love to listen to Joni Mitchell's work.

      In the UK the decline in bees and the like is probably down to the mass paving etc of gardens and green areas. Very sad.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Nellieanna, good questions that I too have often asked! I am well aware though that a majority of people don't care about using pesticides and herbicides! Roundup is sold and used everywhere poisoning the land and wildlife and all manner of insect killers are on sale where I live and used! We have a lot of insect pests here including cockroaches and most people thinking spraying with poison is the answer!

      Tom, if you Google Morgellons you will find more than you could ever want unless you are seriously researching it - there are loads of videos and very weird theories including that it is an alien organism, an ancient disease that has been resurrected, nanotechnology, a product of secret experimentation, a bio-weapon in an effort to cull the populations etc etc Chemtrails and Morgellons go together for many people too and it a common subject for believers in chemtrails to also talk about. This of course doesn't help its credibility to a large degree and traditional science and doctors ignore it a sufferers have found. It is a growing mystery! Joni is the first celebrity I have heard of with it so hopefully she will be able to use her status to get this investigated properly!

    • justom profile image


      8 years ago from 41042

      Love Joni and I can't tell you how many times (while watching old beautiful buildings being torn down) I've had "Paved paradise and put up a parking lot" roll through my head. As for Morgellons, never heard of it but sounds strange. Peace!! Tom

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      We really don't HAVE TO keep poisoning our EARTH. Since so many of us really don't want to, why is it still happening, ever more fiercely and rapidly? Warnings began in the 50s. Few heeded them. Everyone seemed to feel like they were the "exception" and it was someone else's fault and problem. Why is that? Why do big powers, corporate and political talk a good game but DO the most damage? Why?

      Do people and powers REALLY want to destroy our planet that much? Why?

      Probably I won't live to see "Silent Spring" cover the planet, but it's starting to look more and more imminent. And my children, grandchildren and even quite a few great-grandchildren already born - will live to see it. It isn't right. It's more tragic than all the wars, though those are equally unforgiveable. WHY?

      Rachel Carson must be cringing in her grave at the Gulf Oil crisis which just ambles along, unfixed for months now. Why?

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting, Teresa! Yes, Morgellons sounds like a nightmare in more ways than one!

    • Teresa Schultz profile image

      Teresa Schultz 

      8 years ago from East London, in South Africa

      Morgellons disease sounds awful, especially if it's basically one of those unexplained diseases. Plenty of info about Joni Mitchel, well researched and well done.

      Mentioning that honeybees are dying out reminds me of the movie Bee Movie, I think released in 2007. An animated movie for children, but with such a strong message, thoroughly enjoyed by adults too.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for the recommendation - maybe when I've got some more money I'll see if I can get it!

    • FCEtier profile image


      8 years ago from Cold Mountain

      If you haven't read Crichton's book, I highly recommend it. Very well researched and annotated.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      FC, yes, we don't need nuclear power - we should have had the free energy system devised by Nikola Tesla that could have powered the world without causing all the pollution and dangers we have had and have!

      I am not convinced about malaria but will have to investigate more. I mean how did the tribal peoples cope in areas where it exists before white people went there with DDT? From what I can see tribal people do better without intervention by whites and go downhill in many ways after 'civilisation' has been brought to them!

      Thanks, Tony!

    • tony0724 profile image


      8 years ago from san diego calif

      Thanks for a great hub Bard. I have always been a huge Joni Mitchell fan.And I love " Big Yellow Taxi". And just for the record I think " Court and Spark " Is one of the best records ever made !

    • FCEtier profile image


      8 years ago from Cold Mountain

      That's a loaded question, Bard. It's the type of question I'd like to agree with, but cannot. (I'm thinking of all the people who died of malaria because of not using DDT.)

      Here's an analogy for you.

      Would the world be a lot better off without nuclear power? We wouldn't have to worry about "the bomb", but we wouldn't have the benefits of nuclear power either. Life is full of trade-offs isn't it? Now THAT's something I can certainly agree to.

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Yes, I have heard that but I am sure you'd agree that the world would be a lot better of without all these poisons being used so much?

    • FCEtier profile image


      8 years ago from Cold Mountain

      It's crazy how things work out.

      The successor "poison of choice" in the USA after DDT was malathion. More farm workers died from it than DDT.

      Meanwhile, not being able to use DDT in third world countries resulted in the more malaria-related deaths than the holocaust. These figures came from the bibliography of Michael Crichton's book, "State of Fear".

      Sad state of affairs.

      "Don't it always seem to go,

      That you don't know what you've got till it's gone."

      -- J. Mitchell

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for your thoughts on it all, Pcunix! Yeah, it's not looking good at all but amazingly I am still an optimist!

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 

      8 years ago from SE MA

      Pesticides, pollution.. and 90% of us are still in denial.

      We are going to kill ourselves off. As the oceans die off, as there are fewer and fewer pollinators, more and more people will starve, there will be more wars...

      The future looks just ducky, doesn't it?

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for posting, Saddlerider1! The problem is on top of the illness is that most of the medical profession does not recognise Morgellons as a reality but tries to say the sufferers are deluded. On top of this no one really knows what it is although there are many theories and some of them as bizarre as the disease. Chemtrail-believers claim that it is caused by chemtrails. I have even read that Morgellons is an alien disease organism. Google the term and you will find loads about it. I may end up doing a hub about Morgellons.

    • saddlerider1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Joni was one of my favorite folk singers back in the sixties, along with Dylan and Joan Baez she stood out and the test of time. I am sorry to hear of her weird disease, I hope the medical profession can help, maybe she will have to try alternatives. peace

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you 2uesday!

    • 2uesday profile image


      8 years ago

      I have always enjoyed the Big Yellow Taxi song and it was nice to see the video of Joni Mitchell performimg it.

      Interesting that the issues in it are still relevant today. Good luck for your challege and sorry I got the wrong Ely, I was thinking of the one in England.


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