Best Day songs
Way back on April 22, 1970, the first-ever Earth Day was celebrated – something we’re honoring with the Top 20 Earth Day Songs. Founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day is acknowledged around the world, especially in schools where students are taught about environmental conservation and what everyone can do to support it. Of course, students of rock and roll have been schooled in “green” ideology for decades, with prominent classic rock artists expressing their observations on the need to protect the planet we share. Below are some of the best Earth Day Songs.
‘Song for a Dying Planet’
From: ‘Songs for a Dying Planet’ (1992)
Joe Walsh’s 1992 solo album is his most earnest statement, in which he eschewed his trademark humor for direct observations about the state of the world. He closes the record with this spare, two-minute plea, in which he sings, “We’re killing everything that’s alive / And anyone who tries to deny it / Wears a tie / And gets paid to lie.” We hear a none-too-subtle metronome in the background — ticking away like a doomsday clock.
‘License to Kill’
From: ‘Infidels’ (1983)
This song, which came on the heels of Bob Dylan’s “born again” period, seems to call back to the singer’s heyday of finger-pointing songs. On “License to Kill, ” Dylan accuses mankind not just of poisoning the Earth’s natural resources, but also of running roughshod over everything in its path. “Man has invented his doom / First step was touching the moon, ” he sings, revealing his distaste for what he felt was the arrogance of the U.S. space program. Or maybe he was just reminding us that progress often has an unintended consequence.
From: ‘Hemispheres’ (1978)
Drummer Neil Peart wrote this Rush classic as a goofy, cartoon-ish story about different types of trees bickering in the forest like human beings. Although he claims there’s nothing deeper about “The Trees” than a silly story, others have perceived a message about how the natural world is superior to mankind when it comes to finding a way to coexist.
‘Mother Nature’s Son’
From: ‘The Beatles’ (1968)
Paul McCartney wrote this, one of the Top 20 Earth Day Songs, after listening to a lecture by the Maharishi during the Beatles’ time in India. (Similarly inspired, John Lennon wrote “Child of Nature, ” which would later become “Jealous Guy.”) In the song, which builds from Macca’s acoustic guitar to an orchestral arrangement, the singer praises the natural beauty around him and seemingly desires to become one with it. In subsequent years, McCartney had done his level best to live up to those words, becoming an animal rights activist and prominent vegetarian.
‘The Prophet’s Song’
From: ‘A Night at the Opera’ (1975)
Queen’s longest song also finds the legendary band at their proggiest, crafting an epic inspired by guitarist Brian May’s dream of a great flood. As such, there are plenty of Biblical allusions and references to the end times. But “The Prophet’s Song” also seems to be about recognizing the mighty powers of nature that cannot be bent to men’s will. Freddie Mercury howls: “Late, too late, all the wretches run / These kings of beasts now counting their days.”
‘Last Great American Whale’
From: ‘New York’ (1989)
The late, great Lou Reed talks his way through this track from his comeback record, weaving together a story with elements of Native American legends, the Civil Rights Movement and man’s never-ending desire to control nature. Over a quietly strummed guitar, he flicks the nastiest barbs at his countrymen: “Americans don’t care for much of anything / Land and water the least / And animal life is low on the totem pole / With human life not worth more than infected yeast.” “Last Great American Whale” is as strange as it is powerful.
From: ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ (2012)
Like all of the songs on the Van Halen reunion record, “Outta Space” originated from a long-discarded demo called “Let’s Get Rockin’.” When David Lee Roth wrote new lyrics to the scorching track, he decided to get Earth-conscious – albeit in a totally “Diamond Dave” way. After discussing polar bears, dolphins and starving kids, then owning up to mankind’s shortcomings, Roth sings “Bumper sticker on my rocket’s ass / ‘Go Home. The Earth’s Full’.” It’s enough to make you wonder if he was always this concerned. Was “Hot for Teacher” really about global warming?
From: ‘(Untitled)’ (1970)
Released a few months after the first Earth Day, the Byrds’ (Untitled) featured this ode to ecology, co-written by Kim Fowley and new bassist Skip Battin, then retooled by frontman Roger McGuinn. The singer’s almost haphazard delivery only adds to the song’s intrigue, as if he’s the weary soul of a planet that took its revenge on mankind with a “shake and quake and make their houses burn.” Like many of the Byrds’ best tracks, “Hungry Planet” intertwines psychedelia and roots-rock, lending a cosmic aesthetic to this apocalyptic ballad.
‘My City Was Gone’
From: ‘Learning to Crawl’ (1984)
Chrissie Hynde wrote one of the Top 20 Earth Day Songs after returning to her hometown of Akron, Ohio, only to discover that over-development had robbed the city of its character. Worse yet were the environmental infractions, which the lead Pretender colorfully describes as, “my pretty countryside / Had been paved down the middle / By a government that had no pride.” At the time of penning this song in 1982, Hynde was becoming increasingly involved in environmental causes and she remains one of the best-known People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) supporters in the world.
From: ‘Rocks’ (1976)
Guitarist Brad Whitford, who co-wrote this heavy hitter with singer Steven Tyler, considers “Nobody’s Fault” his favorite Aerosmith track. The song is about earthquakes and man’s inability to cope with natural phenomena. Of course, in Aerosmith’s hands, this relatively sane topic becomes the fiery hellscape of mankind’s demise, with Tyler cackling: “Old St. Andreas / Seven years ago / Shove it up their richters / Red lines stop and go.” When the big one hits, don’t say Aerosmith didn’t warn you.
‘Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth’
From: ‘Propaganda’ (1974)
The esoteric art-pop outfit Sparks depicted Mother Earth as a fickle mistress in this serene glam ballad from the group’s fourth LP. Like most Sparks tunes, “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth” was written by keyboardist Ron Mael and sung by his brother Russell Mael. Russell employs his acrobatic vocals to describe ugly scenes that come at the hands of nature: “Towns are hurled from A to B / By hands that looked so smooth to me / Never turn your back on Mother Earth.”