If we are going to look for the best songs about nature, maybe we should give some consideration to what nature is. That will also help us to understand where the songwriters were coming from in the words they wrote.
- Is Nature The Natural World?
- Something We Stand On?
- Top 16 Best Songs About Nature
- After The Gold Rush by Neil Young
- Pollution by Bo Diddley
- Sunshine On My Shoulders by John Denver
- Rocky Mountain High by John Denver
- Mercy Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye
- Before the Deluge by Jackson Browne
- Don’t Go Near The Water by The Beach Boys
- What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
- Despite Repeated Warnings by Paul McCartney
- Blackened by Metallica
- Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell
- Fields Of Gold by Sting
- Mother Nature’s Son by The Beatles
- A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan
- License to Kill by Bob Dylan
- Want to Find More Songs About the World Around Us?
- Best Songs About Nature – Final Thoughts
Is Nature The Natural World?
Yes, it is, although its meaning has been clouded somewhat. There is a deep misunderstanding of the word “nature” that has evolved since the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.
There is a belief, probably true, that certain elements of the natural world were given other descriptions, names, and emphasis after that time.
The reason for this is the destruction that humans were causing to the natural world. The words and descriptions of what constitutes the Natural World were changed to avoid any responsibility or guilt.
Haven’t we heard that story before?
And still, it goes on. Even today, people deny climate change, global warming, and the rest. Claiming it to be a part of a global conspiracy. Very sad that the human race can be so out of touch with reality.
Composers and songwriters, call them what you will, have been writing about nature for years. It is not just a modern observation. For example:
But, in these more modern and allegedly enlightened times, the songwriters have stood up to ask the question, “What do you think you are doing?”
Something We Stand On?
Some people see the planet and our natural world as something we should preserve and take care of. We don’t own it, after all. Others see the world as something we just stand on. But what have the songwriters said? Let’s find out by taking a look at the best songs about nature, starting with…
Top 16 Best Songs About Nature
After The Gold Rush by Neil Young
This was taken from the third studio album of the same name by the Canadian-born singer-songwriter. The album was released in 1970 and provoked some controversy due to Young’s critical comments.
He said he wrote the song after looking out of the window one day and wondering what it must have looked like a hundred years ago.
The song has a range of comments and topics. But, at its center, it is a song about the environment. And what we have done to it. Today, he has updated the song to make it more relevant as the destruction has gotten worse. He still performs it as part of his live shows.
Pollution by Bo Diddley
Ellas Otha Bates, or Bo Diddley as we know him, was born and brought up in a very industrialized part of Chicago. As soon as he began to travel and saw other parts of the country, he realized that nature was being taken apart.
He wrote this song in 1971 in New York and included it on his album, Another Dimension. It is a song about people discarding litter in the streets. It is a simple idea that people still ignore and just throw things away instead of using dustbins or other trash cans.
He refers to the consequences, and the track becomes a form of a protest song against those who ignore the importance of nature and the environment around us.
Sunshine On My Shoulders by John Denver
So, now we go over to a singer who was often called “Nature boy.” He picked up this nickname because of his deep love and appreciation for what nature gives us. It is a song that is typical of the sound he was creating in the early 70s. Plenty of nice melodies delivered with a natural, almost innocent feel.
From a spontaneous situation…
He was watching the rain and wished the summer would soon be here to give him some sunshine. Whilst it portrays those simple feelings, it also has a deeper meaning with nature as its theme. It was released on his 1971 album, Poems, Prayers, and Promises.
The single wasn’t released until 1973. When it was finally released, it went to #1 in America and Canada. The lyrics tell of his love for the sunshine, the seasons, and nature and how they can bring out the best in us.
Rocky Mountain High by John Denver
Let’s stay with John Denver for another one of his many great songs about nature. This song is widely known and played. And it is one of Colorado’s state songs.
It was taken from his album of the same name, released in 1972. The song was written by Denver, along with Mike Taylor. The single reached #9 in America and #8 in Canada.
But, it wasn’t without its controversies…
The Federal Communications Commission of America (FCC) tried to get it banned. They said the lyrics, and especially the word “high,” meant something else.
But, it was just a description of the elation he felt when looking at the mountains. If it wasn’t so serious in its context about what you can say and what you can’t, it would be funny.
Surrounded by beauty…
Denver made his home in Aspen, Colorado, amongst the spectacular Rocky Mountains. And, if you want to write songs about the natural world, then it is one of the best places to live in the world.
He often spoke about the deterioration he had witnessed firsthand in the beauty of the area. He blamed it on a series of economic growth surges and the placing of profit before the beauty of the area.
The song was written while he was camping in 1972, and he witnessed a Meteor shower. It is one of the songs he is best remembered for.
Mercy Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye
This was a single taken from Marvin Gaye’s album, What’s Going On, released in 1971. That was years before we were talking about global warming and protecting the environment. This song made some people sit up and take notice. In their eyes, it became an anthem for protecting nature.
The track reached #4 on the Pop chart in America and became one of his most well-known songs. It speaks about how we must protect the earth and everything in it. Issuing a plea for people to take notice.
This song threw a different light on one of Tamla Motown’s top acts. It showed him in a caring mood and took some people by surprise.
Before the Deluge by Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne is often mentioned regarding his relationship with The Eagles. He was the principal songwriter of their breakthrough hit, “Take It Easy.” And he also contributed to “Doolin-Dalton” on The Eagles’ album, Desperado.
However, he is not mentioned so much as a solo songwriter and singer. This is despite him producing some great songs on albums like Running On Empty. “Before The Deluge,” however, is him in a contemplative mood. It was taken from another excellent album, Late for the Sky, released in 1974.
He talks about his generation…
All the illusions they created, and he predicts their fall from a position of power and control. He talks about those who exploit the earth and nature for money, destroying its magnificence for profit.
These days, of course, there are plenty of them. Written in 1974, it is prophetic in its judgments on the resulting tragedies that will befall nature if we carry on as we are.
Don’t Go Near The Water by The Beach Boys
This is an interesting diversification and a rather ironic twist in this song from The Beach Boys. It is taken from an album released in 1971, Surf’s Up.
I say it is an ironic twist because The Beach Boys spent most of the early 60s encouraging everyone to enjoy the beach life. Get down to the beach and get in the water and surf. This is a song telling the same people to get away from the water.
A Strange Twist?
You could argue that. But, in many respects, it is an argument that is easy to understand. I grew up in the UK in an era when the early Beach Boys music wasn’t easily available. But still, we got to hear it, and I always promised myself one day I would go and see this idyllic lifestyle for myself.
I eventually went to see the golden beaches, which the songs were written about. A friend of mine who was a ‘local’ and knew the area took me. To say I was shocked at the state of them would probably be an understatement. I should think they may have even gotten worse today.
Mike Love was quoted as saying this song was borne out of his anger at what people do to nature. He wrote the song with Al Jardine, and it was released as the B-side of the lead single from the album, Surf’s Up.
It didn’t do well commercially…
Part of that is because The Beach Boys and the surfing craze had gone out of fashion to an extent. On the back of this song, they were encouraged to do an album about nature and the environment, and Surf’s Up was the result. The song itself is about a man who is destroying the sea.
What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
So far, it seems all we have talked about is the destruction of nature and the natural world. Unfortunately, when you mention nature and the environment, that is what songwriters are seeing and writing about.
But, I am going to lighten the mood a little here with this song that we are all familiar with from the great Satchmo. It was written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and was released as a single first time round in 1967.
ABC president Larry Newton refused to support the release in America, and it flopped. In the UK, the success was staggering as it went straight to #1. It made its mark again in 1988 because of its inclusion in “Good Morning, Vietnam.”
Indeed, it’s a wonderful world…
It’s a song full of appreciation for nature and all that it gives us. It celebrates the beauty that is all around us that, most of the time, we hardly notice.
“I see trees of green – Red roses too – I see them bloom – For me and you – And I think to myself – What a wonderful world.”
A classic song full of positivity and a great performance gives us a track that will always be played and remembered. And it is easily one of the best songs about nature.
Despite Repeated Warnings by Paul McCartney
People that know me will know I am not a big fan of Mr. McCartney for reasons that aren’t relevant here. I always thought John Lennon to be the driving force behind The Beatles. And the one that wrote the best music after they split.
However, whilst I don’t usually include too many solo McCartney songs in my lists, this one needs to be here. A very clever song written using a real historical event as its motivation.
The song uses a crazy sea captain as an example of a politician. He is so obsessed with his own importance that he takes his vessel and speeds up. Despite a series of warnings about the possibility of a collision, he takes no notice. He knows best. But, he has taken his ship on a pathway to disaster.
It’s aimed fairly and squarely at ignorant politicians and leaders who are more concerned with their own imagined importance. Those who pretend that global warming and the destruction of nature are hoaxes.
It has a feeling of optimism at the end…
McCartney rightly insists that it is possible to make the necessary changes to how we live if the desire is there.
We just have to keep Captain Smith and Mr. Joseph Bruce Ismay away from the controls and not let them influence or steer the path of the ship. Or anything else, for that matter.
Blackened by Metallica
Metallica writing songs about nature and the environment? Oh yes, the environment matters to metalheads too. It was taken from their 1988 album, … And Justice For All.
In this song…
The message is quite stark and rather depressing. Talking about the “end of times,” predicting the inevitable collapse of the ecosystems and the demise of nature as we know it.
It is perhaps more about our attempts to do as much damage to the planet as it is about honoring nature. But, to cease these activities is the way to honor nature. And to ensure there is something for our children to inherit that is worth having.
The song can be described in just one word – Metallica. It is about what you might expect. However, watch out for the fade-in intro featuring reversed guitars.
Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Time to stray and lighten up a bit again. This is a song from 1969 taken from their album of the same name.
Creedence arrived on the scene in the late 60s like a breath of fresh air in many respects. It was “fun” music with a hint of 50s Rock and Roll. This was always one of their best tracks, in my opinion.
Come on down…
It is a song about a place John Fogerty used to visit with his family as a kid. He loved the peace, the nature all around him, and, of course, the river itself. I expect many of us have memories of places we visited with our parents on holiday.
It is a song that reminds us how beautiful nature and the natural world are, and how we should take the time and opportunity to enjoy them.
Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell
I don’t know what it is about Canada and great songwriters. There must be something in the water. Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain, Alanis Morisette, The Band, and, of course, Joni Mitchell.
Joni Mitchell was one of the great songwriters of the late 60s and 70s. She had a wonderful way of taking a serious subject like nature and adding an ironic comedy to it.
As we can see from these lines from the song, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot – With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot – They took all the trees, put ‘em in a tree museum – And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ‘em.”
Don’t know what you got till it’s gone…
The song was released in 1970 from her album Ladies of the Canyon. Very much a “hippie-like” character; she was wonderful. And nature and the natural world meant a lot to her.
But she, unlike some others, was sincere about it. She sings about the beauty of nature but adds her concerns for the future. Even in the late 60s and early 70s, she could see what was going to happen.
Fields Of Gold by Sting
This is a song by British conservationist, activist, and ex-member of the band The Police, Sting. It was taken from his 1993 album, Ten Summoner’s Tales. The single was also released in 1993 and reached #16 in the UK and #23 in America.
It is a song about home. Sting lives in a large Manor House in Wiltshire, England. He can look out of his window and see acres of untouched and unspoiled fields. One of which is his field of barley.
He talks about how in the summer, with the sun shining down, it looks like a field of gold gently swaying in the breeze. He wonders what untold stories of lovers it holds from the past. It is a simple song but a deeply moving one.
Mother Nature’s Son by The Beatles
This was a song that was inspired by a lecture given by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi while they were all in India in 1968. The basis of the song and its words evolved there.
It was written mostly by Paul McCartney, with some extra lines added by John Lennon. The song was finished at Paul’s father’s house in Liverpool.
It is a song that is reminiscent in many ways of Paul’s younger days when he was known to enjoy the fields and the countryside. However, it was recorded at one of the low points in the atmosphere that existed between the members of the band.
Cut Like A Knife…
One of the engineers on the track, Ken, said afterward that the rest of The Beatles arrived at the studio just as Paul was finishing a take. He said you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. No one even acknowledged him.
Even then, the others considered that he saw himself as superior by wanting to record and write all on his own. It was resented. Either they are a band or not. But, by then, they probably weren’t. John or any of the other Beatles didn’t play on the track.
The song was included on probably their greatest album, The White Album. It paints an idyllic picture of just lazing around on a summer’s day, enjoying the natural world around you. “Find me in my field of grass – Mother Nature’s son – Swaying daisies sing a lazy song – Beneath the sun.”
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan
The first of two Bob Dylan tracks to finish this list of the best songs about nature. He wrote this when he was just 21 years old in 1962. It was included on his album, The Free Wheelin Bob Dylan, and released in 1963.
It is considered one of his greatest works and had an impact on many people. Pete Seeger was astonished that someone so young had such a grasp on nature and humanity. Scottish comedian Billy Connolly said it changed his life and his attitude to the world the first time he heard it.
In some ways…
This song predicts the end of the world at our own hands. Of disregarding the importance of nature and why we rely on it to survive. Its original theme has been modified to a certain extent in that it has now become a “protest environmental song.”
The United Nations have used it at meetings over harrowing footage of the destruction of the natural world. The point Dylan is making, though, is that nature and humanity are important and should not be trampled all over.
License to Kill by Bob Dylan
Bob’s angry, and when he is, someone’s going to get it. This is a song from his 1983 album, Infidels. Dylan produced it by working with Mark Knopfler, and Knopfler also played guitar.
He talks firstly about how he sees humanity as destroying nature in front of his eyes. And how people are schooled from a young age not to care. He says, “Man has invented his own doom – First step was touching the moon.”
Dylan may not be being critical of the technology and the achievement of going to the moon. But I think he means that having done so, we think we have become the “masters of the universe.”
Of course, we haven’t…
But, we do seem to have got a bit too big for our boots. Dylan talks about the water being polluted and the natural resources being trampled over. A powerful song about saving the environment from a powerful album.
“License To Kill” was also covered by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Maybe Dylan is emphasizing and making the point that progress isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes there are consequences. He isn’t wrong.
Want to Find More Songs About the World Around Us?
Well, take a look at our detailed articles on the Top Songs About Storms, the Top Songs About Rainbows, the Best Songs About Spring, the Best Songs About Winter, and the Best Songs about Flowers for more great song selections.
Also, you will want to hear those songs. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones Under $200, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, and the Best True Wireless Earbuds that you can buy in 2023.
Best Songs About Nature – Final Thoughts
When you start to look at songs related to nature, that leads you straight toward a link with the environment that, in turn, takes you to songs about our impact on it. Then you begin to realize there is a trend developing.
Songwriters are drawing our attention to nature and the natural world. And, of course, what we are doing to it. There aren’t too many songs praising those who are perpetuating what they see as destructive actions. Neither are there songs praising those who deny what is going on.
It is sad to see that there are far more songs written about the environmental crisis than about the natural beauty of the environment.
For those that love nature…
It is difficult to look around without seeing what is happening. I suppose that is why there are so many songs in the negative. “What crisis?” some will ask.
Our natural world is full of beauty which is something to be celebrated. And even though many of these songwriters are angry and despondent, they still recognize the beauty of nature that is all around them.
Take a moment to have a look around you as some of these writers have done. Nature is miraculous, especially the trees. But, you’d better do it soon before you have to pay a dollar and a half to see ‘em.
Until next time, happy listening.