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Earth Day: 15 Pro-Environment Songs

From the Beach Boys to will.i.am and Celine Dion, here’s an unusual selection of Earth Day tunes dedicated to Mother Nature

The Beach Boys walk along the beach holding a surfboard for a portrait session in August 1962 in Los Angeles, California. (L-R) Dennis Wilson, David Marks, Mike Love, Carl Wilson, Brian Wilson.

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Faced with the deteriorating condition of our planet, people react in various ways. Some donate to charity, some sift trash along the highway. A select few pen well-meaning — but cheesy — songs. From the Beach Boys to will.i.am and Celine Dion, here are 15 odes to Mama Earth.

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Julian Lennon, “Saltwater”

John Lennon‘s firstborn takes a soppy turn on this 1991 single, crooning about the destruction of nature and how it makes him cry like John Boehner watching a Hallmark ad. “Saltwater wells in my eyes,” Lennon sighs through a catalogue of eco-grievances: the razing of the forests, the hole in the ozone layer. He weeps at the drop a hat – literally, because that hat might crush a flower – over lilting keys strongly reminiscent of the wintry Mellotron intro of Pops’s “Strawberry Fields Forever.” (Highbrow note: Lennon also seems to cop from the Italian opera Tosca, insisting, “I have lived for love/but now that’s not enough.”)

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James Taylor, “Gaia”

Rippling strings, soprano sax, featherweight harmonies: James Taylor will see your mawkishness and raise it. Singing in 1997 of a mass exodus from New York City in search of greener pastures, Taylor compares a bus to a “foolish school of fish on wheels” and turns “helpless and speechless and breathless” once he’s perched on a mountain. Then he prays for trees and fish. (Again with the fish!)

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Yes, “Don’t Kill the Whale”

Once upon the 1970s, the Save the Whales movement was a massive, unavoidable mainstream cause. British prog-rockers Yes capitalized on it with 1978’s Tormato, which includes a languid, disco-inflected rant against those who are “killing our last heaven beast.” Their lyrics are uniformly and hilariously overwrought, but the finest couplet has to be, “In the wake of our new age to stand for the frail/Don’t kill the whale.” In a time when Brit punk was at its ferocious apex, Yes’s tinny keys and imploding imagery was decidedly… not punk.