On the anniversary of the death of Malvina Reynolds in 1978, we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate her life!
Malvina Reynolds was an American folk singer-songwriter, probably best known for her 1962 song “Little Boxes.” Unlike the majority of female musicians, Malvina began her career later in life, returning to school at UC Berkeley and studying music theory in her mid-forties.
After studying at UC Berkeley, Malvina went on to write several extremely popular songs. “Little Boxes,” which she released in 1962, is a satire meant to critique American suburbia and the social conformity following McCarthyism.
Malvina wrote “Little Boxes” after driving through California and seeing the housing developments there, where all of the houses seemed identical. The song was an iteration of Malvina’s lifelong activism, especially when it was made popular by her friend and fellow activist Pete Seeger, whose cover reached the Billboard Hot 100.
Suburbia was not the only political matter that Malvina became involved with through her music. Her song “What Have They Done to the Rain” protests above-ground nuclear testing, which caused nuclear fallout to show up in the rain. Malvina performed this song at marches against nuclear testing organized by Women for Peace and Women Strike for Peace, along with participating in and helping put together the marches.
Malvina performed this song at marches against nuclear testing organized by Women for Peace and Women Strike for Peace, along with participating in and helping put together the marches.
Though these songs are ruthless social commentaries, they have a gentle and pleasing sound to them, making Malvina’s music style perfect for a different category: children’s music.
Malvina wrote several popular children’s songs, among them “Morningtown Ride,” a soothing lullaby about children going on a journey through the nighttime and to the morning. Malvina also contributed several songs to Sesame Street, also appearing on the show from time to time as “Kate.”
Malvina’s gentle singing voice, and the dreamy feel to her songs, allowed her to deliver hard-hitting messages with kindness, allowing her activism to go straight to the heart. Malvina’s was a life truly dedicated to fighting for what she believed in, and her beautiful songs allow her to continue the fight even though she’s no longer here.
© Julia Lasker (3/17/2023) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Listen to Malvina Reynolds’ songs here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured photo: “Not really in my creative wheelhouse, but illustrated famed folk singer Malvina Reynolds (singer of Tiny Boxes aka the Weeds theme song) for the upcoming issue of @ocweekly coming out Thursday” by Break of Dawn is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Bottom photo: Wikimedia Commons