Ever since its birth in 1970, Earth Day has empowered the world to proactively take care of the planet. But politicians and environmental activists aren’t the only ones building awareness about Earth—your favorite musicians are too! And many of them do so through the power of music.
In celebration of Earth Day, we put together a short list of our 10 favorite Earth-friendly tunes, from classic pop-rock to underground hip-hop.
“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” - Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye’s smooth, intimate brand of R&B has helped define the Motown era. “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” hits listeners with the question that climate change experts are trying to figure out: “How much more abuse from man can she stand?”
Marvin Gaye’s groove gives you the feeling he’s setting up for an intimate love song. But instead, he shows his love of Mother Earth by commenting on the biggest environmental issues, including ocean and air pollution.
Gaye sings, “Things ain’t what they used to be,” but House of Marley’s Earth Month partners are doing something about it!
“Don’t Go Near the Water” - The Beach Boys
It’s ironic that The Beach Boys, whose music career is built on the joy of being at the beach, chose “Don’t Go Near the Water” as the opening track of 1971’s Surf’s Up. Nevertheless, the song’s upbeat rhythm makes the fight against ocean pollution feel more than possible.
Throughout the song, the Beach Boys bring awareness to ocean pollution and challenge music lovers to make a difference by asking “What’s happened to the water?” This new songwriting approach marked a time when The Beach Boys were trying to ride the wave of modern environmentalism in the ‘70s.
“Mother Nature’s Son” - The Beatles
The White Album is full of unforgettable songs by the fab four, and “Mother Nature’s Son” is no exception.
Even if you’re a bigger fan of John Lennon’s songwriting style (we know it’s a big debate, but don’t make us choose!), you can’t deny this blissful folk tune by Sir Paul McCartney. “Mother Nature’s Son” tells the story of living in the countryside and immerses you in the beauty of the landscape. Rather than mentioning hard-hitting environmental issues, this song reminds us of what makes the Earth worth saving.
“What a Wonderful World” - John Batiste
Christmas has “Jingle Bells”—and Earth Day has “What a Wonderful World.” In 1968, Louis Armstrong recorded the original version, which has become a standard in pop songwriting.
“What a Wonderful World” encapsulates everything that makes our world great, pure and simple. Despite being such a simple song, it has a lot of power behind it. Batiste takes a smoother, more tender approach compared to Louis Armstrong’s trademark vocal growl, which stands out and gives it an added softness.
Whether you prefer John Batiste’s genre-bending style or Louis Armstrong’s iconic voice, this classic tune is the perfect source of Earthly inspiration.
“My Dirty Stream” - Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger has accomplished a lot as a songwriter and environmentalist, but he went above and beyond to bring awareness to the pollution that plagued the Hudson River. In 1966, Seeger released “My Dirty Stream” on his eco-minded record, God Bless the Grass.
Pete Seeger’s effort to clean up the Hudson River is one of the greatest sustainability stories in music. “My Dirty Stream” has a jovial feel, but Seeger took his mission seriously. After years of hard work, he caught the attention of local community leaders who decided to launch initiatives to rid the Hudson of pollution, once and for all.
“Earth Song” - Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson truly loved the Earth, including the people that call it home. Although he has a successful history of socially conscious music, like “We Are the World,” “Earth Song” is focused on the environmental impact on animal welfare.
“Earth Song” is a personal message from the King of Pop that begs everyone to consider the health of the Earth. But in addition to his environmental concerns, he also makes a beautiful commentary about the importance of world peace.
In 1997, Michael Jackson received a Grammy nomination for “Earth Song,” and was the number one single in seven countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy and Norway.
Mos Def - "New World Water"
Mos Def says it better than any other underground rapper: “Every drop counts.” As a socially conscious hip-hop artist, Mos Def doesn’t keep quiet about topics that need to be brought to light, and that includes water conservation.
Mos Def cleverly delivers a barrage of verses about the toll of wasteful water use, as well as the diminishing quality of the world’s water supply. For example, “[Water] used to have minerals and zinc in it, now they say it got lead and stink in it.”
Mos Def is known for throwing light comical jabs in his music, but the world needs the wake-up call, especially when it comes to environmental sustainability.
“(Nothing But) Flowers” - Talking Heads
“(Nothing But) Flowers” paints an image where flowers dominate a post-apocalyptic landscape, instead of the gloom and doom seen in dystopian horror films.
Talking Heads frontman David Byrne sings about how his world has changed. Kiss the 7-Eleven, Dairy Queen and video stores goodbye. What was once a Pizza Hut is all covered with daisies. The discount store is a cornfield. A mass of parking lots turned into an entire oasis, and everything you once knew is now…green.
But we’re okay with that! After all, Earth Day is all about giving our green, leafy friends the spotlight—and by “spotlight,” we mean the sun.
“Dragonfly” - Ziggy Marley
Ziggy Marley carries his father’s legacy forward—and builds his own—by writing music that speaks for those who can’t. “Dragonfly” reminds us that we have a responsibility to take care of the animals on Earth.
The song is inspired by a spiritual conversation Marley had with a dragonfly. The first verse ends with, “People living on 24-hour clocks, but we’re on a ride that never stops,” which is a hint that we should keep our eyes on the future of the planet. At the end of every chorus, we’re left with the question, “What kind of creature is man?”
Ziggy Marley’s message is clear, but he leaves enough room for you to fill in the blanks and come up with your own solutions.
“Sun is Shining” - Bob Marley
Bob Marley’s music speaks for those who can’t, whether they face oppression or lack a physical voice. “Sun is Shining” is a rescue call from nature itself. In three verses, Marley sends the world the simple, yet powerful, message to take care of the Earth.
Marley’s environmental philosophy is what inspires House of Marley to use sustainable materials like organic cotton, recycled PET and bamboo. We’re continuing the Marley legacy by giving music lovers Earth-friendly audio products that bring music alive.
Celebrate Earth Day with House of Marley
Now that you have some good Earth-friendly songs to enjoy, you can celebrate Earth Day the right way. To spread the love, listen through House of Marley turntables, speakers and headphones for a sustainable listening experience.