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The Green Life: Sing for Tomorrow: An ecoTunes Playlist

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July 10, 2009

Sing for Tomorrow: An ecoTunes Playlist

Green music "All things move in music and write it," said Sierra Club founder John Muir. Legendary songwriter Oscar Hammerstein echoed that observation: "All the sounds of the earth are like music." No surprise, then, that so many musicians are concerned about the planet--a soothing refrain for anyone who loves music and the outdoors with equal fervor.

Gathering from all corners of the musical map -- bluegrass ballads, black-metal dirges, pop sarcasm, and classic folk anthems -- we herein suggest a set of songs in favor of not trashing the planet, in the order we'd play them on our iPod.

Writer Lynn Rapoport’s playlist, with descriptions:

Marvin Gaye, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" (1971): The luscious, sad, soulful linchpin to any self-respecting green jukebox.

I See Hawks in L.A., "In the Garden" (2008): Country rockers from the city of sprawl deliver pretty, rollicking notes about bees, weather, logging, and a paradise "bothered" rather than lost.

The Postal Service, "We Will Become Silhouettes" (2003): A dulcet, dancey synth-pop indictment of the air we breathe.

Mos Def, "New World Water" (1999): The rapper-actor drops F-bombs on rising oceans, poisoned water, and imminent shortages.

Ted Nugent, "Great White Buffalo" (1978): Sweet guitar licks and the Nuge's hunter-conservationist take on species extinction.

Wolves in the Throne Room, "Vastness and Sorrow" (2007): Gorgeous black-metal onslaught by Earth First!-leaning farmsteaders. Unintelligible lyrics paint a scorched, wasted earth.

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, "Johnny Appleseed" (2001): Rousing (and sage) advice about resource management from a punk-rock icon.

Jean Ritchie, "Black Waters" (1971): The Appalachian folksinger calls out the coal companies in this (unfortunately) timeless bittersweet tune.

Talking Heads, "(Nothing But) Flowers" (1988): Playfully sarcastic, joyously upbeat, David Byrne's visions of a carless, fast-food-free future in which plant life overtakes factories and freeways.

Editor Avital Binshtock’s playlist, with lyrics:

REM, “Cuyahoga” (2003): This land is the land of ours/this river runs red over it

Michael Jackson, “Earth Song” (1995): Did you ever stop to notice the crying Earth/the weeping shores?

Dire Straits, “Telegraph Road” (1982): Then came the mines, then came the ore/Then there was the hard times then there was a war

The Eagles, “Last Resort” (1976): Some rich men came and raped the land/Nobody caught 'em/Put up a bunch of ugly boxes and Jesus people bought 'em

Black Sabbath, “Into the Void” (1974): Pollution kills the air, the land and sea/Man prepares to meet his destiny

Marvin Gaye, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” (1971): Oil wasted on the oceans and our seas/Ah, fish full of mercury

Cat Stevens, “Where Do The Children Play?” (1971): Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass/For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas

Tim Buckley, “The Earth is Broken” (1968): They rob from the sunshine, oh, the air ain't so clean/Our rivers are dirty where once we could see

The Doors, “When The Music's Over” (1967): What have they done to the Earth?/What have they done to our fair sister?/Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her

Sheryl Crow, “Gasoline” (2008): When the creed was handed down/For no more trucks and no more cars/They threw cans of petrol through the windows at Scotland Yard

Miley Cyrus, "Wake Up America" (2008): Oh, can you take care of her?/Oh, maybe you can spare her

The John Butler Trio, “Treat Yo Mama” (2005): Trying to save our mother from all this greed/You know they know what she wants, you know they know what she needs

James Taylor, “Gaia” (1997): Pray for the forest pray for the tree, pray for the fish in the deep blue sea.

Bill Steele and Pete Seeger, “Garbage” (1977): We're filling up the seas with garbage/What will we do when there's no place left?

Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi” (1970):  Hey farmer, farmer/Put away that DDT now/Give me spots on my apples/But leave me the birds and the bees/Please

Kenny Loggins, “This Island Earth" (1997): There's a new world waiting/When will we see rebirth

Peter Gabriel, “Down to Earth” (2008): We’ve got snow up on the mountains/We’ve got rivers down below

Woody Guthrie, “This Land is Your Land” (1940): From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters/This land was made for you and me

Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s “Clear Blue Skies” (1988): Clean water, not too much to hope for/it’s the basis of our lives

Tell us: What are your favorite environmental tunes?

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