TOP TEN EARTH SONGS
By B SHAWN CLARK
Many years before the release of Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (Spirit – 1970), scientists had been warning of the effects of other releases, into the air, of the more toxic variety, which, what with the accumulation of smog and all, began to give new meaning to the phrase “the tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife”, eventually culminating in the observation, made in 1968, that “[a]t the moment we cannot predict what the overall climatic results will be of our using the atmosphere as a garbage dump.” (The Population Bomb, by Paul R. Ehrlic).
Nearly half a century later, most people have now figured out, more or less, that the result has been an alarming increase in global temperatures with resultant changes to the climate that are, while still somewhat unpredictable, certainly look a lot like Mother Nature finally taking revenge for what the humans have been doing to her. This despite a drum beat of repetitive information still not quite making its way into the heads of some people who “do not believe” in global warming, as if this is an option akin to deciding not to believe in Santa Claus, even while scientists are sticking thermometers in the North Pole (where he used to live before disappearing into childhood memories) and other places, pulling them out, looking at how far the mercury had risen, before telling everyone and anyone who would listen:
“hmmm, yep, it is getting uncomfortably warm around here.”
While its lyrics sometimes seem almost as repetitive (if you repeat the same thing over and over eventually something may sink in) as what scientists have been telling everyone for the past several decades, for its wonderfully folk-jazz melodic rendition by Randy California (and the rest of Spirit), Nature’s Way, (Sardonicus – 1970) makes its own way to a spot at Number Six on the Best-Of Earth Tunes List:
It’s nature’s way of telling you, summer breeze
It’s nature’s way of telling you, dying trees
It’s nature’s way of receiving you
It’s nature’s way of retrieving you
It’s nature’s way of telling you
It’s nature’s way, it’s nature’s way
It’s nature’s way, it’s nature’s way
Despite being widely regarded, along with other music on Sardonicus (Nothing to Hide, Animal Zoo and Mr. Skin), as what has become called a landmark of Rock Art, Nature’s Way did not become a big hit at the time (peaking at #111 on the Billboard Pop Charts in 1971), and, although the music of Spirit has stood the test of time and maintains legs, however wobbly, 46-plus years after its release (the same year as the first Earth Day), could not be called a great commercial success.
Implied in the manner by which Nature’s Way continued Spirit’s pioneering exploration of environmental messages achieved critical acclaim, but not commercial success, is a message of their own that the general public, apparently becoming increasingly fond of the repetitious sound of a beating drum (but not so much the ideas being driven home by the beat) may have been trying to send:
“We grow weary of music delivering inconvenient truths from the hippie protest era, how long do we have to wait for Disco to arrive on the scene?”
B Shawn Clark is a conservationist and attorney turned freelance writer who is attempting to reprise the role of Thoreau in shaping human thought and reflection through life in nature. He is currently holed up in the seaside town of Englewood, Florida at a self-styled “Man Cave” in a wooded area populated by wildlife (not counting those kids next door) beside a creek reminiscent of Walden Pond, where he continues to ponder the law, and the law of human nature.