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The Top 20 Eco-Songs of All-Time


1. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," Bob Dylan




Written during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, this classic was described by Dylan as "a desperate kind of song, every line in it is actually the start of a whole song. But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn't have enough time alive to write all those songs so I put all I could into this one." One of those lines: "Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters."

2. "Don't Go Near the Water," Beach Boys
Not usually known for their social stances, the Beach Boys ditched surfin' tunes for a song that included the words, "ecological aftermath." Don't go near the water, they warned, because "Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams/Have all been touched by man./The poison floatin' out to sea./Now threatens life on land."

3. "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," Marvin Gaye
The first (and only?) green soul song. The amazing Marvin Gaye sings eco-lyrics by Grover Washington, Jr, e.g. "Poison is the wind that blows/From the north, east, south, and sea" and "Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas/Fish full of mercury" and "Radiation in the ground and in the sky/Animals and birds who live nearby are dying."

4. "Animal," Ani DiFranco Ani attempts to see the world through the eyes of an animal, looking "at all the shiny stuff around to buy/At all the wires in the air/At all the people shopping/For the same blank stare," reminding us to "ask any eco-system/Harm here is harm there/And there and there."

5. "After the Gold Rush," Neil Young



When you hear the line "Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s," take a second to process that it's 2009 and Mother Nature is still sprinting for her life.

6. "Oh Mother Earth" (A Natural Anthem)," Neil Young
In what Young called "a natural anthem," he asks: "How long can you give and not receive and feed this world ruled by greed?"

7. "(Nothing But) Flowers," Talking Heads

"From the age of the dinosaurs/Cars have run on gasoline/Where, where have they gone?/Now, it's nothing but flowers." Is David Byrne imaging peak oil or even better, a post-civilization planet? You make the call.

8. "Earth Song," Michael Jackson



With its themes of drought, over-fishing, deforestation, pollution, and war, it's been called a "big, bold environmental call-to-arms."

9. "Blackened," Metallica This is the type of planetary shredding we can support. "See Our Mother/Put to Death/See Our Mother Die." Well, either that, or start protecting your mother...now.

10. "My City Was Gone," Pretenders
Venerable animal rights activist Chrissie Hynde sings: "I went back to Ohio/But my pretty countryside/Had been paved down the middle/By a government that had no pride."

11. "A Campfire Song," 10,000 Maniacs w/Michael Stipe
I could listen to Natalie Merchant sing a weather report but fortunately, she's always found more germane topics, e.g. "A lie to say, 'O my mine gave a diamond as big as a fist.'/But with every gem in his pocket, the jewels he has missed."

12. "Poison in the Well" 10,000 Maniacs
Natalie and the Maniacs again, this time asking: "Tell me, where to now, if your fight for a bearable life can be fought and lost in your own backyard?"


13. "Do the Evolution," Pearl Jam

Eddie Vedder and company taking humanity to task for its hubris: "This land is mine, this land is free/I'll do what I want but irresponsibly/It's evolution, baby."

14. "Big Yellow Taxi," Joni Mitchell



Joni had it figured out even before the green movement exploded onto the scene--sprawl, clear cutting, pesticides, etc.--scolding us that "You don't know what you've got/Till it's gone."

15. "Where Do the Children Play?" Cat Stevens
The mellow-voiced Yusuf Islam sings of our increasingly paved planet ("Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass./For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas") and wonders where the children will play.

16. "Subdivisions," Rush A prescient look at how the physical sprawl of suburbia contributes to the insulation, isolation, and alienation of the human nation. "Nowhere is the dreamer/Or the misfit so alone."

17. "The Rape of the World," Tracy Chapman
Go ahead, play this song, listen to Tracy's voice, and really focus on the lyrics...and I dare you not to weep for our beloved planet. Quite possibly, the most passionate call for green revolution ever put to music.

18. "Piggies," The Beatles
While real pigs don't deserve such a reputation, the Fab Four's point here is to shine a bright light upon corporate greed and the myopia of never looking past the next fiscal quarter.


19. "Fall on Me," REM
Michael Stipe has described this song as "pretty much a song about oppression," and its ostensible topic is acid rain. He sings of buying and selling the sky but most importantly, Stipe urges us to lift our arms up and "ask the sky." Indeed, the sky surely has more answers than we do.

20. "Freedom," Rage Against the Machine
From the preeminent radical rockers, we get this paean to indigenous peoples, which includes a broadly activist stanza: "Environment/The environment exceeding on the level/Of our unconsciousness/For example/What does the billboard say/Come and play, come and play/Forget about the movement." P.S. "Anger is a gift."


 

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