This folk-pop tune is the second single from Tori Amos' seventh studio release, Scarlet's Walk, a concept album about a woman's cross-country journey through the US. In this song, we pick up Scarlet's trail in Chicago, where she learns that a gay friend has died of AIDS and is disgusted by the reaction of other so-called loved ones. "'Taxi Ride' is about how people react to death and the betrayal that can happen even after death," Amos explained.
As for Scarlet, she decides to take a taxi ride to Baton Rouge to visit her late friend's house before heading to New Orleans.
In Scarlet's travels through post-9/11 America, she's trying to come to terms with betrayal - both in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York City as well as in the death of her friend. "There are all kinds of betrayal. And I think she's trying to come to terms with that inside," Amos explained in the accompanying Scarlet's Stories commentary. "The betrayal of an outside force, where then you become defensive and nationalistic, and then they betray that. Wow, you're completely stripped bare because it's from the inside, it's an inside job. I really liked the idea that Scarlet takes a taxi... all the way, all the way down. Because, let's face it, the people, she doesn't want to hitch a ride with anybody she knows, are you kidding me? I kind of love the idea that all these things can happen in this stranger's car. It's always fascinated me, you know, the things that I say in taxi cabs... over the years, all over the world. So that's a little bit of my own kind of... read on it."
This was largely inspired by Amos' friend and makeup artist, Kevyn Aucoin, who became addicted to painkillers after a painful surgery and died of kidney and liver failure due to acetaminophen toxicity in 2002. Amos noted that the friends who weren't there to support him when he was alive showed up to speak about him after his death.
"The odd thing about 'Taxi Ride' was that this song was being written before he died, and he even heard that line, 'just another dead fag to you,'" Amos told Out magazine in 2002. "I was writing it as part of another song about a gay guy who was dying of AIDS. He miraculously recovered, and the song didn't get written. It started propelling itself again early this year, and Kevyn and I were having conversations, and I didn't know what was coming. But I knew he was in a lot of pain, and he felt betrayed by people who weren't there when he was in need. Then everybody who shows up in his death can give a statement, but they weren't there in the trenches. His death brought up a lot of things in people - some lovely and some despicable and disgusting. 'Taxi' is for Kevyn."
This peaked at #35 on the Adult Pop Songs chart.
Although Amos didn't release an official music video for the song, she created the "Taxi Vision" contest for fans to submit their own videos. The #1 entry, directed by Susan Hebert, shows glimpses into the lives of various passengers in a taxi. The #2 entry, directed by Barclay Deveau, takes place in a nursing home, where a lonely old woman is shown kindness by a young nurse.
Scarlet's Walk was Amos' last Gold-certified album; it sold more than 600,000 copies in the US.