Red Rain – The first track on Peter Gabriel’s 1986 album So
Peter Gabriel is an English singer, songwriter, producer and activist who first stepped into the limelight as the original lead singer of Genesis. He left the band in 1975 to pursue his solo career and released “Solsbury Hill” as his first single. He went on to release his most successful album, So, in 1986. The most successful song on the album was “Sledgehammer”. It won a record breaking nine MTV awards and by 2011 was the station’s most played music video of all time.
“Red Rain” is the first track on the So album and reached number three in the US mainstream rock chart in 1986. It wasn’t released in the rest of the world until the year after. It had less airplay resulting in fewer sales and only reached 46 in the UK singles chart.
He had a dream…
There are a few interpretations of the lyrics to this song. They were inspired by a recurring dream Gabriel had about swimming in a sea of red water. He explained “it was written after a dream I’d had about the sea being parted by two walls. There were these glass-like figures that would screw themselves into each wall, fill up with red blood and then be lowered across the sand, as it were to the next wall, where they’d unload the blood on the other side. I used to have these extremely vivid dreams that scared the hell out of me.”
More recently the song has featured on a published list of songs relating to climate change and the impact humans have on the environment. To some the reference to red rain is connected to global warming with the line “it can’t be that cold, the ground is still warm to touch”. There is also the suggestion that “they tell you that this rain can sting” is about acid rain caused by industrial burning of fossil fuels.
This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie’s famous folk song evolved over the years
Woodie Guthrie was an American singer-songwriter who was a huge influence in American folk music. He inspired generations with his music including significant songs like “This Land Is Your Land”. He wrote the song in 1940 as a critical response to Irving Berlin’s patriotic “God Bless America” as he was tired of hearing it on the radio! Originally he sarcastically called the song “God Bless America for Me”.
“This Land Is Your Land” tells of the great places in the United States with the constant reminder that they belong to the people, “you and me”. In a time not long after the Great Depression, it was a reminder that the US is for all Americans not just those who were rich and powerful.
As with many folk songs there have been a number of altered versions and alternative verses sung over the years. Now nearly 80 years old, controversy and debate still surround the song. Regardless of Guthrie’s original intention it has taken on many different meanings. Its anti-American bias is still discussed and in 2010 Alec Baldwin promoted it as a response to the BP oil spill. From studying the lyrics you can see why the song can easily represent the growing concerns for the world in which we live.
Good Planets Are Hard to Find – This song featured on Steve Forbert’s Rocking Horse Head album
Steve Forbert is an American pop music singer-songwriter. His voice has been described by BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris as “one of the most distinctive voices anywhere”. He has released nineteen studio and three live albums. Many of his songs have been recorded by other artists and a tribute album called An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert was released in 2017.
He wrote “Good Planets Are Hard to Find” in 1996 for his Rocking Horse Head album. Like Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” it features on song lists about climate change and how we impact our environment. It’s not hard to see why with lyrics like “Strong ozone and safe sunshine; Good Planets are hard to find.” The song suggests that we won’t take any action if we don’t truly believe that we need to do something different…
And the mind don’t know
If the heart can’t see
Let the blind man go
To his destiny
What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong’s classic jazz song
Louis Armstrong was an American trumpeter, composer, singer and actor, born and raised in New Orleans. A hugely significant jazz figure, his career stretched from the 1920s to 1960s, with nineteen “Top Ten” records. Bob Thiele and George Weiss wrote “What a Wonderful World” and it was released in 1967 by Louis Armstrong. It wasn’t an instant hit in the United States but it topped the UK Singles Chart. Towards the end of his career, this song made Armstrong the oldest male to reach number one in the UK.
The song became a jazz standard and was well used in television and radio. It featured in the radio and TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Armstrong’s recording also featured in the film Good Morning, Vietnam. In the song, Louis sings about the things in the world around him that make him happy and smile. This uplifting message is a reminder to us all that we do indeed live in a ‘Wonderful World’ and for it to continue we have to start taking care of it… and fast!