by Francesco Guerrieri
Music has been used to express those ideas for which simple words do not satisfy. Earth and nature are no exception. Artists have chosen different ways to express their love of Mother Nature herself. While songs like “Earth Song” and “Big Yellow Taxi” have a more overt political tone, “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Mountain Sound” focus instead on the beauty of the very thing. In honor of Earth Day, here are my picks for Earth Lovin’ songs. Whatever song you choose to bump, it will remind you of nature’s beauty and the importance of protecting it.
“Mother Nature’s Son” by The Beatles
Paul McCartney sings about the quiet beauties of nature in this song by The Beatles. Lyrics like “Find me in my field of grass/ Mother Nature’s son/ Swaying daisies, sing a lazy song beneath the sun” were inspired by a lecture given by Maharishi Mehesh Yogi, the famous guru to The Beatles, The Beach Boys and other celebrities.
“Blue Ridge Mountains” by Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes captures the atmosphere of Appalachian America in this song. “In the quivering forest/ Where the shivering dog rests/ Our good grandfather/ Built a wooden nest,” Fleet Foxes singer Robin Pecknold over folk-inspired guitar riffs. The song shines the light on the often forgotten natural beauty in this part of an industrialized America.
“Earth Song” by Michael Jackson
In the music video for this song, Michael Jacksons sings about the destruction humans have done to the Earth. The scene takes place in the rubble of a post-apocalyptic town. He makes his viewpoints known in this music video when he prays to the Earth with the people around the world to fix the immense damage humanity has done. Michael Jackson believes that only through united action can mankind restore the balance it unhinged in nature.
“Mountain Sound” by Of Monsters and Men
“Mountain Sound” explains the immersive feeling that nature gives those who venture through it. “Alone we travelled on with nothing but a shadow/ We fled, far away/ Hold your horses now/ Through the woods we ran” gives the feeling of adventure that returns with spring. As the weather gets better at Northwestern, this song reminds us to appreciate the importance of getting lost outdoors.
“License to Kill” by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan warns against the allure of progress in this famous protest song. The folk singer says “Man thinks ‘cause he rules the earth he can do with it as he please/ And if things don’t change soon, he will/ Oh, man has invented his doom.” Like many liberal artists in his day, he was opposed to the increased pollution of the environment caused by economic growth.
“New World Water” by Mos Def
New York rapper Mos Def criticizes how first world countries have restricted the access of clean water to other parts of the world. Mos Def uses the hip hop medium to deliver a poignant and thoughtful message. With verses like “The sun is sitting in the treetops burning the woods/ And as the flames from the blaze get higher and higher/ They say, “Don’t drink the water! We need it for the fire!” discusses the complex consequences man-made climate change has had on water access.
“Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
This rendition of the Wizard of Oz classic and Louis Armstrong song by Hawaiian icon Israel Kamakawiwo’ole depicts an ideal image of nature. “I see trees of green, red roses, too/ I see them bloom, for me and you/ And I think to myself/ What a wonderful world,” Brudda Iz uses the defends nature as a gift we must preserve for the next generation.
“Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” summarizes Joni Mitchell bleak view of humanity’s impact on nature. This pessimistic message is covered by upbeat guitar beats and catchy drum beats. Lyrics like “Hey farmer farmer/ quit on that DDT now” show the level Mitchell was invested in the issue. DDT was the subject Rachel Carson criticized in her groundbreaking environmental novel Silent Spring, which advocated against the use of pesticides in agriculture.
Unfortunately, Earth Day is only one day, but music is forever. If you want to save these songs for another time when you’re feeling particularly in love with mother nature, save this Spotify playlist! (Except for The Beatles’ song, which is not available unfortunately)