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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
sing4peace Do you like 'Little Boxes'? (202* d) RE: Do you like 'Little Boxes'? 08 Sep 09


The first time I heard Little Boxes, I was nine years old, living at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, California. I was already feeling very concerned about the coerced conformity I saw all around me. I had never seen Levittown but I knew a box when I saw one - physically, spiritually, economically, artistically....

I remember sitting in my dad's car, listening to the radio as I waited for him to finish his errands. I heard a woman singing with a voice unlike any of the "pretty girl" singers that one is most likely to hear on any given day out of any given radio. This was a characteristically unique voice singing about a system where people are born, live, learn, breed and die in boxes that differ only slightly from each other. I burst into tears. I was so grateful that there was at least one other human being out there who was as disturbed by the cookie cutter mentality as I was.

Years later, I produced a tribute to Malvina Reynolds at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence, RI. (July, 1993). Pete Seeger was our M.C. and it was recorded live by WGBH - Boston Public Radio. Sixteen different acts performed two songs each of Malvina's to demonstrate the wide range of her wit and poetry and the contemporary social relevance of much of her work. When Pete introduced Little Boxes at the end, he told the same story described earlier in these posts -by Nancy (Reynolds) Schimmel, Malvina's daughter . Pete then added that Malvina later came to have some regrets about writing the song as she encountered people for whom Levittown was a personal dream.

Because of the way the song impacted me that day sooooooo long ago, I have never forgotten how a single song is capable of reaching into our psyches and souls and completely altering -or reinforcing - our viewpoints.

Malvina, like most good writers, had opinions that evolved over the course of her career. She was just as quick to examine herself (Somewhere Between) as she was the vagaries of the corporatocracy "The World In Their Pockets". For those who are not too happy with the never ending military contract stimulus plan known as War, Inc. you might get a kick out of her "We Hate To See Them Go".

I think Malvina Reynolds was one of the more astute political songwriters of the sixties and seventies. Too bad that Little Boxes got all the attention. She also wrote some beautiful ballads too - check out "I Wish You Were Here".

In my opinion pigeonholes are for the birds. I'm pretty sure that's what Malvina was getting at. At least that's what I got out of it when I was nine years old.

To MtheGM: Are you advocating a lyrics policing squad to ensure that only "correct" lyrics are allowed? I see a lot in your posts where you engage in the same sort of "them and us" thinking that you are accusing Malvina of doing. It's a wonder anybody ever writes anything or dares to perform on stage considering the critic's galleries and their razor sharp correcting pencils.

To Matt Milton: Pete Seeger did not write God Bless the Grass - it was written by Malvina Reynolds in 1964. He didn't write Garbage either. That was written by Bill Steele in 1969. I don't know the Cement Octopus song so I can't help you there.


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