This was used as the theme song for the TV series Weeds, which was how I first came by it.
It’s a fantastic song and a wonderfully evocative protest one – the lyrics are at once catchy, cheerful and cautionary. Reynolds was inspired to write the song while driving through Daly City, California in 1962.
Nancy Reynolds Schimmel – Melvina Reynold’s explained:
“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.”
Reynolds has a distinct voice and here she uses it to maximum effect, rasping out the chorus, pinching the words ‘ticky tacky’ (popularised in the 60’s by this track) all the time maintaining the song-song lullaby like melody.
The version of the song destined to become famous was sung by her good friend and fellow political activist Pete Seeger in 1963.
Since then, the track has been covered by a multitude of artists, from a multitude of different musical genera – surely a testament to the song’s integrity and lasting impact.
- According to Christopher Hitchens, satirist Tom Lehrer described “Little Boxes” as “the most sanctimonious song ever written”.
- Weeds used nearly 30 different versions of the song (including this one) during its 8 season run.
- In 1952, a similarly tuned song called Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was released by Bob Merrill.