AUK’s Chain Gang: Malvina Reynolds “Little Boxes”

Copyright CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The link to last week’s feature is that of property and housing and, whereas we were contemplating an apparently desirable ocean-front property, this week we are looking at the other end of the market – little boxes made out of ‘ticky tacky’

Malvina Reynolds was an American folk/blues singer-songwriter and political activist, best known for her songwriting if not her voice. Hers is an interesting history and she was a contemporary of Pete Seeger and Earl Robinson. Though she was a writer of children’s songs, as was the great Woody Guthrie – and this offering may appear to be of that ilk – it does in fact carry quite a barb once you get further into the lyric. It basically lampoons the conformity of the  ‘American Dream’ – quite something to do in the early 60s and so much more acceptable 60 years on.

‘And they all play on the golf course / And drink their martini 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 all get put in boxes / And they all come out the same’.

Wikipedia fills out Reynolds’s story thus,

“Though she played violin in a dance band in her twenties, Reynolds began her songwriting career late in life. She was in her late forties when she met Robinson and Seeger, and other folk singers and songwriters. She returned to school at UC Berkeley, where she studied music theory. Reynolds went on to write several popular songs, including ‘Little Boxes’ (1962), recorded by Seeger, Chilean singer Victor Jara and others, ‘What Have They Done to the Rain’ (1962), recorded by The Searchers, The Seekers, Marianne Faithfull, Melanie Safka and Joan Baez (about nuclear fallout), ‘It Isn’t Nice’ (1964, a civil rights anthem), ‘Turn Around’ (1959, about children growing up), later sung by Harry Belafonte, and ‘There’s a Bottom Below’ (about depression)”.

To be honest, where I live there’s any number of little boxes being built.

About Gordon Sharpe 117 Articles
Retired music fan longing to get back to the Lakes and hoping to visit Scotland before much longer - somehow South Cheshire just doesn't cut it. Still seeking the grail in terms of a convincing description of what Americana really is but really enjoying the search. And still wondering when Kenny Rogers will get his just deserts
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments