July 18, 2018 / 11:25 PM

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Neil Young, Jerry Garcia, Ozzy Osbourne and Other Sing to Mother Earth on Her Birthday


Today is Earth Day and another big day is approaching as well—Mother's Day on May 10 (don't forget to call mom guys) so Music Times decided to bring both together and look up the music acts that have paid tribute to the most important mother of them all: Mother Earth. We've got performances from Grateful Dead affiliates, Neil Young and Ozzy Osbourne.

"Mother Earth" by Memphis Slim (1951)

Most of the songs featured in this list will have something to do with the wonders of nature or saving the world...don't worry. Around the time when Memphis Slim was rocking the scene, protecting Mother Earth wasn't as high a priority as it is now, however. Thus his iconic blues track "Mother Earth" only deals with nature from a "Circle of Life" perspective: He uses a familiar blues theme in reminding listeners that we're all gonna die. "Don't care how great you are, I don't care what you're worth," he sings. "'Cuz when it all is up you've got to back to Mother Earth."

Mother Earth, the American band (1967-'77)

The hippie movement, one often associated more than others with environmental causes, was widespread throughout the United States during the '60s but perhaps it had no better home than the San Francisco Bay Area, which turned out a number of famous musical acts, including The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Santana and more. Another act from that scene, albeit one that gathered less fame than the aforementioned acts, was Mother Earth. The group, founded by vocalist Tracy Nelson during 1967, featured acclaimed guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Boz Scaggs at one point or another during its decade-long existence.

"Save Mother Earth" by Merl Saunders (1972)

Another Bay Area musician from that era who isn't a recognizable name among casual music listeners is Merl Saunders, who dropped his first album during 1968 and has continued recording up until the present day. Dedicated Deadheads know Saunders well however, as he was a good friend and occasional Grateful Dead accompanist during the band's peak of popularity. The pair would jam together and even formed the Saunders/Garcia Band with Jerry Garcia. The keyboardist's claim-to-fame on Earth Day is a cut from his solo album Heavy Turbulence, "Save Mother Earth." Garcia and Creedence Clearwater Revival guitarist Tom Fogerty appear within the seven-minute slice of funk, while Saunders plays his Hammond organ.

"Revelation (Mother Earth)" by Ozzy Osbourne (1980)

Black Sabbath and heavy metal served as the musical opposite of the hippie movement, but that doesn't mean the two scenes didn't share mutual concerns. When frontman Ozzy Osbourne went solo during 1980 with Blizzard of Ozz, he took the destruction of Earth in a more apocalyptic direction with "Revelation (Mother Earth)." Admittedly it's one of the more balladic moments on the album, sticking with piano and orchestration for much of the song. Similar to later songs such as "One" by Metallica (which would come out eight years later), the guitar shredding (from Randy Rhoads in this instance) wouldn't take off until the end of the track.

"Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)" by Neil Young (1990)

Neil Young has always been a fan of nature—from his use of biodiesel on tour buses to the forthcoming The Monsanto Years project with Willie Nelson's sons, which will reportedly focus on his fight with the titular agrochemical company and the wider theme of genetic modification in foods. Young recorded "Mother Earth (Natural Anthem" live to use as a closing track on his Ragged Glory album with Crazy Horse. The track features the guitar fuzziness typical of a plugged-in Young performance (and especially typical for that album, released in the rise of the grunge era, for which he has been dubbed the godfather). The track, as referenced in the title, plays off of the theme of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Mother Earth, The UK Band (1991-'96)

You wouldn't guess it, based on listening to the UK band Mother Earth, but it came about nearly 25 years following the American band of the same name. The newer Mother Earth came from the acid jazz scene of the early '90s, and was most recognizable by its employ of the B3 Hammond Organ, the very same used by the aforementioned Merl Saunders. Therefore you could be forgiven for thinking that "Almost Grown," a song featuring The Jam's Paul Weller, was recorded well before it debuted during the '90s. Although Weller had maintained his status in the UK throughout the '80s, he dialed it back for this recording as well.

Mother Earth by Within Temptation (2000)  

Metal bands from the region of Scandinavia have their own reasons for focusing on Mother Earth, due to their focus on Nordic mythology and its emphasis on the natural world. Although the aforementioned mother wasn't an actual Germanic character, the band almost makes her one by using Gaelic typeface on its album cover for Mother, along with vocalist Sharon van Abdel dressed as a faerie on that same album art, its breakthrough effort. The title song deals with the reign of the titular entity and the creative/destructive nature.

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