I’m a huge fan of good music. Music that has a message, as well as a beautiful guitar riff or drum solo. Music is something that everyone around the world has in common, so it’s especially gratifying to see artists make good music with a powerful environmental message. Sometimes it takes an entire song, or single chorus line, to get people thinking about lyrics, but these artists have definitely done their part to be eco-advocates and musical geniuses in my book.
Here are 8 environmental songs from the last few decades that make statement about the plight of the planet (and they’re also pretty fun to groove to):
1. Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi
Joni wrote this song when she was in Hawaii in the 70’s. In Wikipedia she quotes, “I wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart… this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.”
Favorite lyrics – “Hey farmer farmer/ Put away the D.D.T. now/ Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees.”
2. Jack Johnson – Gone
Jack is one the most eco-minded musicians around, and this song addresses the effect of human consumption on the environment.
Favorite lyrics – “Look at you out to make a deal/ You try to be appealing but you lose your appeal/ And what about those shoes you’re in today/ They’ll do no good/ On the bridges you burnt along the way.”
3. Marvin Gaye – Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)
This sad but soulful song is from Marvin’s 1971 LP What’s Going On. He sings about the deterioration of the Earth and how “things ain’t what they used to be.”
Favorite lyrics – “What about this overcrowded land/ How much more abuse from man can she stand?”
4. Johnny Cash – Don’t Go Near the Water
Need I say more? It’s Johnny Cash!
Favorite lyrics – “When it gets down to the cities then the water turns into a dirty grey/ It’s poisoned and polluted by the people as it goes along its way/ Don’t go near the water children see the fish all dead upon the shore/ Don’t go near the water cause the water isn’t water anymore.”
5. The Talking Heads – Nothing But Flowers
This single from the Talking Heads’ 1988 Naked album talks about a world without technology and fast food restaurants…nothing but beautiful flowers!
Favorite lyrics –“Once there were parking lots/ Now it’s a peaceful oasis/ You got it, you got it/ This was a Pizza Hut/ Now it’s all covered with daisies.”
6. The Pixies – Monkey Gone to Heaven
Released on The Pixies’ 1989 album Doolittle, this song’s main theme is all about the environment. Pixie frontman and song writer Black Francis says, “The song mainly deals with man’s destruction of the ocean and ‘confusion of man’s place in the universe. On one hand, it’s [the ocean] this big organic toilet. Things get flushed and repurified or decomposed and it’s this big, dark, mysterious place.”
Favorite lyrics – “There was a guy/ An under water guy who controlled the sea/ Got killed by ten million pounds of sludge/ From New York and New Jersey.”
7. James Taylor – Traffic Jam
This song is featured on the James Taylor 1977 album JT, and it’s all about the personal and environmental outcomes of being stuck in a “dam traffic jam.”
Favorite lyrics – “Now I used to think that I was cool/ Running around on fossil fuel/ Until I saw what I was doing/ Was driving down the road to ruin.”
8. Michael Jackson – Earth Song
This song was written and produced by Michael Jackson for his 1997 album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. It touches on topics like war, the environment and animal welfare.
Favorite lyrics – “Did you ever stop to notice/ All the blood we’ve shed before/ Did you ever stop to notice/ The crying Earth the weeping shores?”
Pretty good list, isn’t it? If you have any other songs to add to the list, please let me know. We need to keep combining good music with a green message. To include more songs on this list, visit the original blog post here.
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