Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, with 22 million Americans celebrating clean air, land and water; now, though, the special day is now celebrated annually in 192 countries. In fact, according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), more than one billion people are involved the day’s activities, making it the “largest civic-focused day of action in the world.”
In celebration of this important day, The Boot has rounded up the Top 10 country songs about our earth. Some are specifically environmentally driven, while others simply celebrate the jaw-dropping beauty of the great outdoors. Read on to hear them:
From the very first line, the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away” takes listeners on a sensory experience of the outdoors. The 1999 single from their hit record Fly paints a picture of the deep serenity that comes with being away from the hustle and bustle and in the quiet tranquility of fresh air and natural surroundings. The first verse makes us want to head out to the closest open field: “I said, I wanna touch the earth / I wanna break it in my hands / I wanna grow something wild and unruly / I wanna sleep on the hard ground / In the comfort of your arms / On a pillow of blue bonnets / In a blanket made of stars / Oh, it sounds good to me.”
Walker released “Keep Texas Beautiful” as a single in 1994, from his record Viva Luckenbach. The song shows his Texan pride in a big way: Its lyrics point to Texas’ beauty that “gets more beautiful with every passing day.” The simple chorus is a cry for preservation of that beauty as Walker sings, “Keep Texas beautiful, keep Texas free / Keep her wild and natural, just the way she ought to be / This world is full of man-made wonders, Texas didn’t come that way / No, Texas came out beautiful, why not keep her that way?”
“Pass It on Down” was released by Alabama in March of 1990 and comes from the album of the same name; it was the lead single from and is the first song on the record. On the track, the band sings about the seriousness of mistreating the earth, and in one verse, the lyrics state, “And Lord, I believe, from the heavens to the seas / We’re bringing Mother Nature to her knees.” Alabama urge listeners to help preserve the earth so that it can be passed on to future generations: They sing, “So let’s leave some blue up above us / Let’s leave some green on the ground / It’s only ours to borrow, let’s save some for tomorrow / Leave it and pass it on down.” The song’s lyrics go on to point out acid rain, fires in Brazil, pollution washing up on the beach and more.
Singer-songwriter LeDoux’s 1988 record Chris Ledoux and the Saddle Boogie Band includes the song “Call of the Wild,” and when he released his 24th album, Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy, in 1992, he included it again. “Call of the Wild” boasts vivid imagery; you can practically feel thunder crashing and and wind whistling: “Storm clouds are building above the timber line / The lightning’s flashing across the mountain side / The thunder’s rollin’ down the canyons of his mind / Somewhere beyond the great divide / The bugle of the bull elk echos through pines / The north wind moans her lonesome lullaby / He hungers for the freedom of an eagle as she flies / Somewhere beyond the great divide.”
Sometimes, all you want to do is get away from concrete and computer screens and find your way into the tranquil wilderness of nature, and the chorus speaks to this itch beautifully: “Livin’ in the city oh it gets to be a grind / Puttin’ in his hours workin’ overtime / Waitin’ for the day he can leave it all behind / To go somewhere beyond the great divide / He’s got to get away from the city for a while / He’s gotta answer the call of the wild.”
From NGDB’s 1976 compilation record Dirt, Silver and Gold, this song is pretty much self explanatory. Just read through some of the lyrics, and you’ll see why it belongs on a list celebrating Earth Day!
“Mother Earth lives on the ocean / Mother Earth sails on the sea / I am blessed with her devotion / Mother Earth provides for me / When the grasslands crave for water and the harvest needs sunlight / These are times when I am helpless / Mother Earth makes all things right. Green trees grow on a mountain top / birds still sing when the morning comes / and though I treat her carelessly / Mother Earth still cares for me / Mother Earth still cares for me.”
The word “green” is often used to signify jealousy or even sickness, but on Earth Day, it’s primarily used in terms of the environment. Paisley’s “Gone Green,” from his 2014 album Moonshine in the Trunk, offers a lighthearted — yet hard-hitting — view on “going green”: The song tells the tale of an old redneck who “has done gone green” and evokes Paisley’s signature tongue-in-cheek humor while still getting its message across. With examples of smart cars, solar power and tree hugging, “Gone Green” doesn’t mince words. Plus, this earth-friendly song features Emmylou Harris, whose voice is always a welcome addition.
Cash’s 47th album, Ragged Old Flag, was released in 1974. On that record is “Don’t Go Near the Water” — and it was a statement, especially at that time, as the environment was a divisive topic. It’s easy to see where Cash stood on the issue: The first verse simply describes the water process (“From the fountains in the mountains / Comes the water running cool and clear and blue / And it comes down from the hills / And it goes down to the towns and passes through”), but then, Cash sings this: “When it gets down to the cities / Then the water turns into a dirty gray / It’s poisoned and polluted / By the people as it goes along its way.”
Cash didn’t tone down his opinions or the seriousness of the issue: “Don’t go near the water children / See the fish all dead upon the shore / Don’t go near the water / ‘Cause the water isn’t water anymore.”
“Sweet Summer Loving'” was released in September of 1979 as the second single from Parton’s record Great Balls of Fire. It takes some of the best summertime experiences and condenses them into a song about summertime love: Parton sings about “a stream in the country” and “running barefoot and feeling free.” She describes the sun as a “big red balloon” and the sunset as “a painting across the West.”
This No. 1 hit from Strait’s Troubadour record directs listeners to the miracles happening all around them every single day. “I Saw God Today” describes a man’s spiritual awakening as his daughter is born, and he begins to see the brilliance of the world right in front of him: “Saw a flower growing in the middle of the sidewalk / Pushing up through the concrete / Like it was planted right there for me to see,” Strait sings. At another point in the song, he describes the sunset, “a splash of amber melted into shades of red.” It can be easy to miss all these small moments of beauty in our busy lives, and Strait’s song reminds listeners to pause and look around at our earth’s beauty — from sunsets to newborn babies.
Yup, NGDB make this list twice. Of course, “Fishin’ in the Dark” isn’t exactly a song penned for environmentalists, but it does capture the magic of the outdoors at night — even if the couple in the song isn’t getting ready to stargaze. Lyrics including “Lazy yellow moon comin’ up tonight / Shinin’ through the trees / Crickets are singin’ and lightning bugs / Are floatin’ on the breeze” evoke vivid memories of summer nights. The 1987 hit was released by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as the second single from their album Hold On, and it’s been certified platinum by the RIAA.