Little Boxes

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"Little Boxes" is a song written by Malvina Reynolds in 1962 that lampoons the development of suburbia and what many consider its bourgeois conformist values. It is best known through Pete Seeger's 1963 performance of the song.

Little Boxes refers to the areas of Daly City, California, built in the post-war era by Henry Doelger, particularly the neighborhood of Westlake. Nancy Reynolds, daughter of Malvina Reynolds, explains:

"My mother and father were driving South from San Francisco through Daly City when my mom got the idea for the song. She asked my dad to take the wheel, and she wrote it on the way to the gathering in La Honda where she was going to sing for the Friends Committee on Legislation. When Time Magazine (I think, maybe Newsweek) wanted a photo of her pointing to the very place, she couldn’t find those houses because so many more had been built around them that the hillsides were totally covered.”[1]

It was performed on the BBC satirical television program That Was The Week That Was on April 13, 1964, sung by Nancy Ames and accompanied by a film montage by Guy Fraumeni and Lou Myers depicting tract housing, etc.

The version of the song by the Womenfolk is the shortest single ever to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 at 1:03 minutes long. The first Spanish version of the song, called "Cajitas," was written by the Spanish songwriter Adolfo Celdrán was published in 1969 and had several successive reissues. Another Spanish version of the song, "Las Casitas del Barrio Alto," was written by the Chilean songwriter Víctor Jara in 1971, depicting in a mocking way the over-Europeanized and bourgeois lifestyle of the residents of the "Barrio Alto" in Santiago de Chile. A French version was also performed with the title Petites boîtes by Graeme Allwright. Other artists who have covered the song include Regina Spektor, Rise Against, Devendra Banhart, Phosphorescent, Man Man and The Decemberists who expanded the song by several verses.

The term "ticky tacky" became a catch-phrase during the 1960s, attesting to the song's popularity.[2] Tom Lehrer described Little Boxes as "the most sanctimonious song ever written".[3]

[edit] Use in Weeds

The song is used as the opening theme song for the Showtime television series Weeds. The first season used Reynolds's own recording as the theme song. In the second and third seasons, different artists performed Little Boxes in the introduction sequence of each episode. The almost thirty artists included Rise Against, Linkin Park, Regina Spektor, The Decemberists, Engelbert Humperdinck, Elvis Costello, Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, Tim DeLaughter, Mark Gunnery of Riot Folk, Randy Newman, Billy Bob Thornton, The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, Mates Of State, Persephone's Bees, Man Man, Joan Baez, Ozomatli, Rob Thomas and Kate and Anna McGarrigle who did a French version, distinctly Québécois by its accent, for the episode where Nancy's "Lacy LaPlante" alias was introduced. Reynolds's version was used again for the finale of the second and third seasons and for the premier of the fourth season. Pete Seeger's version was used again at the end of the season three finale. Starting with the second episode of the fourth season, Little Boxes was no longer used.

For a complete list of artists who have recorded this song for the show, see opening music of Weeds.

[edit] Other references

The song was quoted in a Tony Campolo sermon, The Kingdom Of Ticky-Tack, that decried the de-emphasis of spiritual values. The song was performed by Keith Carradine in the movie The Californians in 2005. It is also the signature tune of BBC radio comedy Robin and Wendy's Wet Weekends.

A book about Westlake, Little Boxes: The Architecture of a Classic Midcentury Suburb, is named for the song.[4]

The song is also used by the Italian journalist Gianluca Nicoletti as the opening song for his radio show Melog, on air daily on the Italian national network Radio24 (Italy) since the 9th of January 2006.

The term "ticky-tacky boxes" is also brought up in Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia and referenced in the Planet P Project's 2008 song "The New Frontier".

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Artist Spotlight: Malvina Reynolds". HomeGrown Humor. Showtime Networks. July 2007. Retrieved on 2007-10-16. 
  2. ^ "Tacky into the Wind". Time. February 28, 1964.,9171,873851,00.html. 
  3. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (December 2008). "Suburbs of Our Discontent". the Atlantic. 
  4. ^ Keil, Rob (October 2006). Little Boxes: The Architecture of a Classic Midcentury Suburb. Daly City, CA: Advection Media. ISBN 978-0-9779236-4-9. 

[edit] External links

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