‘Little Boxes’ written and performed by Malvina Reynolds ’62

Little Boxes on the hillside’…

“Little Boxes” is a song written by Malvina Reynolds in 1962, which became a hit for her friend Pete Seeger in 1963.

The song is a political satire about the development of suburbia and associated conformistmiddle-class attitudes. It refers to suburban tract housing as “little boxes” of different colors “all made out of ticky-tacky“, and which “all look just the same.” “Ticky-tacky” is a reference to the shoddy material used in the construction of housing of that time.[1]

“Little Boxes’ by ‘Malvina Reynolds’

‘Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.’

Words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1962 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1990.

Malvina and her husband were on their way from where they lived in Berkeley, through San Francisco and down the peninsula to La Honda where she was to sing at a meeting of the Friends’ Committee on Legislation (not the PTA, as Pete Seeger says in the documentary about Malvina, “Love It Like a Fool”). As she drove through Daly City, she said “Bud, take the wheel. I feel a song coming on.”

Malvina Reynolds songbook(s) in which the music to this song appears:
—- Little Boxes and Other Handmade Songs
—- The Malvina Reynolds Songbook
—- There’s Music in the Air: Songs for the Middle-Young

Other place(s) where the music to this song appears:
—- 62 Stars, Sixty-two Hits: the Keys-Hansen Book (Hansen Publications, 1963)
—- 100 Solos, Saxophone (London and New York: Amsco, 1987)
—- Hazel Arnett and Carl S. Miller: I Hear America Singing!: Great Folk Songs from the Revolution to Rock (New York: Praeger, 1975)
—- Peter Blood-Patterson: Rise Up Singing: The Group-Singing Song Book [lyrics & guitar chords only] (Bethlehem, PA: Sing Out Corp., 1988), p. 2
—- Broadside No. 20 (February 1963)
—- Broadside: Songs of Our Times…, Vol. 1 (New York: Oak Publications, 1964), p. 15
—- Creative Keyboard Songbook, Volume 2 (New York: Amsco Productions, 1987-)
—- Great Songs of the 60’s (London and New York: Wise Publications, 1973)
—- Kathleen Krull and Allen Garns: Gonna Sing My Head Off!: American Folk Songs for Children (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1990)
—- Kathleen Krull and Allen Garns: I Hear America Singing!: Folk Songs for American Families (New York: A. A. Knopf, 2003)
—- Jim Morse and Nancy Mathews: The Sierra Club Survival Songbook (San Francisco and New York: The Sierra Club, 1971)
—- Milton Okun: The New York Times Great Songs of the Sixties (New York: Times Books, 1970-1974)
—- Sing Out!, Volume 13(4) (1963), p. 21
—- Wanda Willson Whitman: Songs That Changed the World (New York: Crown, 1969)

Interesting Facts and Notations:

1. The term “ticky tacky” is now included in the Oxford English Dictionary, and credited to Malvina.
2. Seeger’s recording reached as high as number seventy on Billboard and number seventy-two on Cashbox in early 1964.
3. The Womenfolk’s version peaked at number eighty-three on Billboard and number ninety-six on Cashbox in May 1964.

Sources:

http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/MALVINA/mr094.htm

http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/unitarians/reynolds.html

 

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6 thoughts on “‘Little Boxes’ written and performed by Malvina Reynolds ’62

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