Q: Every summer since I was a teenager, I have a set of songs that I listen to over and over again that become the anthem of that summer, so much so that when I hear them now, I can point to what I was doing when I was listening to that song (perfect example: washing my parents’ car while blasting “Life is a Highway” back in 1992). First the songs were on a cassette tape, then a CD, and now they’re on an iPod playlist titled “Summer Mix.” Before I make my official set list for this summer, I wanted to know if you have any good tunes with an Earth-friendly message?


A: Hmm … that’s a toughie. It depends what kind of music you like. Are you into alternative? Rock? Country? A little bit of everything? Taste in music is so subjective, so I’ll do my best to give you some of my favorite Earth-friendly tunes, but let it be known that this list is by no means comprehensive. Heaven knows I don’t need angry comments about songs I left off the list. Just leave out the fury and feel free to post in the comments section below if you have something to add. The more, the merrier. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, on with my picks.

"The Three R’s" — Jack Johnson. This song comes from Johnson’s soundtrack for the movie “Curious George.” Thanks to Johnson’s smooth vocals and acoustic rock vibe, the entire soundtrack is one of the most parent-friendly kids’ movie soundtracks out there, and this song is no exception. As he sings about ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle (“If you're going to the market to buy some juice/ You've got to bring your own bags and you learn to reduce your waste”), he makes kids (and parents) want to sing along.

"Wake Up America" — Miley Cyrus. I know what you’re thinking. This entire list loses its credibility with the addition of a Miley Cyrus song. But you gotta admit, Miley songs are catchy and perfect for any summer playlist. She evens admits that you may not want to hear it, but your kids sure do. “I know that you don’t wanna hear it/ Especially coming from someone so young/ But in the backseat, yeah/ They wanna hear it.” And the message of the song is a simple, powerful one — everyone can make a difference when it comes to the Earth.


"Waiting on the World to Change" — John Mayer. One of my favorite John Mayer songs, "Waiting on the World to Change", describes the helplessness of his generation when it comes to fixing the world’s problems. “Now we see everything that's going wrong/ With the world and those who lead it/ We just feel like we don’t have the means/ To rise above and beat it.” The song rightfully earned a Grammy in 2006.

"Big Yellow Taxi" — Joni Mitchell. This song was written by Mitchell while she was looking out her Hawaii hotel room, enjoying the view of the expansive green mountains in the distance only to notice the large gray parking lot just underneath her hotel room window. Long before there was buzz about the benefits of organic produce for the environment and for our health, Mitchell wrote, “Hey farmer, farmer/ Put away that DDT now/ Give me spots on my apples/ But leave me the birds and the bees, Please!” and who can forget her iconic line, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” With its light, airy feel, it’s a catchy summer song that will forever serve as a bittersweet ode to Mother Nature.

"Mercy, Mercy Me" — Marvin Gaye. An oldie but a goodie. Gaye sings about “Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our sea, fish full of mercury.” His message, packaged in a 1970s soul song, continues to reverberate across the decades.

"Somewhere over the Rainbow" — Glee cast version. Repopularized by Jason Castro’s memorable acoustic version on "American Idol" a couple seasons ago, Matthew Morrison and Mark Salling sing this tune on the season finale of “Glee” with simple, but oh-so-pretty harmonies. It may not have any direct connection to protecting the environment, but this sweet classic about rainbows, stars and blue skies will make anyone’s summer day.

For more songs that make the cut, check out this list and another Earth songs list from Rolling Stones' keyboardist (and MNN co-founder) Chuck Leavell.

— Chanie

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