For years now, I have been looking through my playlists identifying songs that tie into the environmental and conservation themes. As a huge fan of punk, alternative, and wave genres, I have built quite a long playlist. Particularly in the 80’s, musicians were creating art in honor of Mother Nature. They were trying to bring awareness to the impact we are having on the planet as well as the overwhelming need for change.
I’d like to pay homage to some of these amazing songs and artists through this blog. My plan is to update this list as I find more songs that urge change and justice for the world’s indigenous people, endangered species, woodlands, and oceans.
Here are just a few from my playlist in no particular order other than when I started writing them down:
The Talking Heads’ NOTHING BUT FLOWERS
This somewhat hilarious song shows the absurdity of society wanting to grow concrete structures and parking lots over gardens and fields.
Nik Kershaw’s EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES
Though this song never really caught on in popularity, in my opinion, it's one of his best. Kershaw talks about environmental politics in a way that hits you right in the heart. His experimental techno pop infusion manages to bring a tear to my eye every time I hear it.
Peter Gabriel’s RED RAIN
Hidden somewhat behind the flowing verse, it may not be quite so obvious that he’s singing about the corruption of our water source through acid rain.
The Fixx’s RED SKIES
One of the early alternative bands that really kicked off the 80’s experimental movement, this song is one of my all time favorites. You just gotta love that driving beat.
Midnight Oil’s BEDS ARE BURNING
A bit more obvious, this song is an early awareness of climate change. There's a really good question posed in this song: How can we sleep while our beds are burning?
Midnight Oil’s THE DEAD HEART
Talking about the injustice to indigenous people, this song needs little interpretation to understand. I hope this song gets resurrected. It’s so dang good!
Joni Mitchell’s BIG YELLOW TAXI
Okay, so Joni Mitchell predates the 80’s rock movement, but she’s the original. Widely played for decades, this classic song has been remade numerous times, but there’s no substitute for Mitchell’s honest sincere voice.
Robert Palmer’s cover of Marvin Gaye’s MERCY MERCY ME
Surprised to hear that the guy who sang with the red lip ladies in black did a cover of an environmental song? God, I just love Marvin Gaye, and I’m thrilled that Palmer showed his love of this amazing song and artist by doing a cover of it.
The Pretender’s MY CITY WAS GONE
Wanna dance? Well, here it is. Another song you can grove to that rocks the environmental theme, and who doesn’t love Chrissie Hynde’s vocal style as she goes “back to Ohio”? So cool.
Siouxsie and the Banshees’ CITIES IN DUST
This is probably one of the best bands that ever happened that is one of the least played. I still remember the day my college roommate introduced me to Siouxsie Sioux and the most unique voice in rock and roll I ever heard.
The Specials TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG
Anyone up for a little ska? This song talks about the oh so touchy topic of population and poverty. Well, somebody should be talking about it.
Howard Jones LIFE IN ONE DAY
So, even in the 80’s we were all stressed out by social pressure, and it’s only getting worse. This song is a message from HoJo to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life.
The Police SYNCHRONICITY II
For a song that came out a few decades ago, The Police still sound cutting edge. Who doesn’t enjoy the sound of the Lockness Monster played on guitar? Kudos to Sting and Trudie Styler for creating The Rainforest Foundation which helps protect precious rainforests and indigenous peoples in South America. The original music video makes it pretty obvious that they are singing about all the trash we are putting on the planet and in the oceans, but has anyone really heard the message even with Stewart Copeland banging on the drum?
Dramarama WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?
And now for what is possibly one of the best ever environmental songs that I completely missed in the 80s but definitely should have heard. The simplicity and beauty of this song move me to tears every time I hear it. Listen to him pleading for us to do something. With the wildfires burning the entire continent of Australia and climate reality drowning the historic city of Venice in 2020, what do you guys think about the music industry uniting at this time to bring awareness to climate change and playing these songs (but especially this song) for a very good cause? Could be bigger than Live Aid . . . . Pretty please. Now is the time. If not now, when?
Have some favorites I missed? Please add them in the comments below. The more, the merrier, and I really hope we get more music out there to honor and protect Planet Earth.