In honor of Earth Day, here are some songs about environmentalism

April 22 is Earth Day. The annual event has been held since 1970 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. You can find Earth Day events in your area by clicking here.

Environmentalism – or just appreciation for nature – is a theme that’s expressed in lots of popular songs.  

Here’s a list of some environmentalism-themed songs in honor of Earth Day. 


John Denver – “Sunshine on my Shoulders” 

Denver – aka Henry John Deutschendorf Jr.- was one of the U.S’s best-selling artists of the 1970s. His songs frequently expressed a love of nature. “Sunshine”, which went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974, was inspired by a desire for spring. “I wrote the song in Minnesota at the time I call ‘late winter, early spring’. It was a dreary day, gray and slushy. The snow was melting and it was too cold to go outside and have fun, but God, you’re ready for spring,” Denver said of the song. “You want to get outdoors again and you’re waiting for that sun to shine, and you remember how sometimes just the sun itself can make you feel good. And in that very melancholy frame of mind I wrote ‘Sunshine on My Shoulders’.”

You can learn “Sunshine on my Shoulders” in the Fret Zealot app here.

Joni Mitchell – “Big Yellow Taxi” 

It’s been since covered by Amy Grant and The Counting Crows with Vanessa Carlton, but this 1970 was inspired by the singer-songwriter’s first trip to Hawaii. Mitchell told The Los Angeles Times in 1996: “I wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart […] this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.” 

The Beach Boys – “Don’t Go Near the Water” 

The pioneers of the California sound have lots of songs that reference the ocean, but 1971’s “Don’t Go Near the Water” puts an environmentally-concerned spin on the theme, with lyrics like “Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams/Have all been touched by man/The poison floating out to sea/Now threatens life on land”. 

Johnny Cash – “Don’t Go Near the Water” 

The Man in Black had a track with the same name three years later on his 1974 album Ragged Old Flag. In the song, the narrator laments the pollution of natural waterways and tells his son that they can no longer eat the fish they catch from a stream. 

Marvin Gaye – “Mercy Mercy Me” (The Ecology) 

“Things ain’t what they used to be/Where did all the blue skies go?/Poison is the wind that blows/From the north and south and east”, Gaye sang on this 1971 track.  The song came from Gaye’s concept album What’s Going On, which tells a narrative from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran and explores poverty, drug abuse, and war.

Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World”

Ending the list on a positive note is American jazz great Louis Armstrong’s 1967 single, which includes the lyrics “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”. Armstrong recorded the track overnight following a midnight show in Las Vegas, wrapping around 6 a.m. 

You can learn “What a Wonderful World” on the Fret Zealot app.

How to protect your hearing while playing music

When you’re ripping away at a new song, either by yourself or with a band, it can be tempting to crank the sound on your amplifier all the way up! 

However, even if the music doesn’t feel too loud, it can still be damaging to your hearing. 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that noise exposure not be over 85 dB(A) averaged over a daily eight-hour work shift. Most musicians don’t play that long per day – however, the louder the noise, the sooner it can harm hearing. 

“For instance, musicians who practice or perform at an average sound level of 94 dB(A) would begin to be at risk after only about an hour,” NIOSH says. 

Noise levels above 85 dBa can come from unexpected places. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, an example of 85 dBa is a busy school cafeteria or heavy city traffic. The average dBa of a subway platform is 95 dBa, personal listening devices at max volume can be 105 dBa, and a rock concert or a symphony orchestra is 110 dBa. 

According to the National Council on Aging, hearing loss in older adults is common and affects one in three people from the ages of 65 and 74. Click here for the NCOA’s recommendations and resources. 

A German study from 2014 found that professional musicians are four times more likely than non-musicians to report noise-induced hearing loss. 

Luckily, there are ways to protect your hearing while practicing or performing. 

You can use a dB meter during practice sessions to monitor the sound levels around you. You can find some apps that do this via a Smartphone. 

Get in the habit of using earplugs in loud environments – not just music venues, but also while using power tools or lawn mowers. You can buy disposable ear plugs at most drugstores. You can also buy reusable earplugs that are made of silicone or plastic, or get a pair of custom-fitted earplugs for the best results. Make sure they seal well in your ears! 

You can also get external ear protection (that looks like earmuffs) that goes on top of your ears. 

If you suspect that you might have noise-induced hearing loss, make an appointment with an audiologist for an evaluation. 

Songs you can play with just three chords

You don’t have to be an expert musician to break out a guitar at your next spring barbecue or house party! Many popular songs are built of three simple chords (or can be played with only three chords). Mastering a few chords will put dozens of sing-along worthy tunes in your arsenal. 

Here is a partial list of three-song chords: 

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

G  Cadd9  D 

One of the most well-known three chord songs on our list, this song can also be played with F – but only in the fourth verse! 

Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash 

G  C  D 

One of The Man in Black’s biggest hits only calls for three simple chords! 

Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival  

D   A  G 

This catchy track was CCR’s lead single from their album “Green River”. It was released in 1969. 

Wild Thing – The Troggs 

A   D  E 

Did you know this early rock & roll hit was originally recorded by American rock band The Wild Ones before being recorded by English band The Troggs? The Troggs’ version hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Lean On Me – Bill Withers 

A   D   E 

This classic soul song is ranked number 208 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It’s one of nine songs to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with versions recorded by two different artists.

Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver 

G    D    C

This track was originally included on the singer-songwriter’s debut demo, named “Babe I Hate to Go. His producer convinced him to change the title to “Leaving on a Jet Plane” in 1967, a year later. 

What’s Up? – 4 Non Blondes 

G  Am C 

Use a capo on the second fret to play this ‘90s era hit. 

Three Little Birds – Bob Marley 

A  D  E 

This well-known song is sometimes thought to be called “Don’t Worry About a Thing” or “Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right”, because those phrases are frequently repeated. 

Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen 

A  D   E 

The baseball-themed video for this song was a mainstay of MTV during the 1980s. 

The Joker – Steve Miller Band

G, Cadd9, Dsus4

After topping the Billboard 100 in 1974, this track returned to the top of the charts in the U.K. in 1990 after being featured in a Levi’s commercial! 

The Gambler – Kenny Rogers 

D  G A 

Kenny Rogers’ version of this song was a No. 1 country hit. 

Stay with Me – Sam Smith 

Am F  C

According to interviews, this breakthrough track from English singer/songwriter Sam Smith’s debut album was written with the help of two other songwriters from three simple piano chords. 

Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol 

A  D  E 

Northern-Irish/Scottish band Snow Patrol had “Chasing Cars” as a big hit in the U.S. after it was used in finale episodes of “One Tree Hill” and “Grey’s Anatomy” within a few weeks. 

Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty 

Capo 3 

D  G  Asus 

In 2016, Petty told that he originally wrote his highest-charting Hot 100 song to amuse producer Jeff Lynne. 

All the Small Things – Blink 182 

C  F  G 

It only takes three chords to play Blink 182’s most successful single of all time!

You can find all of the chords you need in the Fret Zealot app! Download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, watch lessons online, and start playing today.