Top 10 Green Songs
It may not be easy being green, but as this list of green songs demonstrates, it’s simple enough to write about it. There are dozens of great classic rock tracks written from an emerald-tinted mind-set. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve selected 10 of the best, as artists from Fleetwood Mac to Creedence Clearwater Revival and Steely Dan sing about green eyes, earrings, rivers, and whatever the heck a “manalishi” is.
We kick off our list with this lazily percolating and highly poetic ode to a woman whose green eyes can soothe even the most raging oceans. These powers were clearly inspiring to the members of Sugarloaf, who turn this song into a seven-minute long epic with extended guitar and organ solos in her honor.
It may seem odd at first that this particular green song comes from an album named ‘Blue’ – at least, until you realize the sadness at the core of its lyrics. Joni Mitchell wrote “Little Green” as a chronicle of the child she was forced to give up for adoption back in 1965. “I conceived in art college at the age of 20, near the end of term,” Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times. “The main thing at the time was to conceal it. The scandal was so intense. A daughter could do nothing more disgraceful. It ruined you in a social sense. You have no idea what the stigma was. It was like you murdered somebody.” Happily, the article reveals, Mitchell was reunited with her daughter in 1997.
This brutal riff overload from the last Misfits album to feature lead singer Glenn Danzig was brought to wider attention by Metallica when they covered it back in 1987 (as part of a medley alongside the Misfits’ 1980 rape and murder tale “Last Caress”) on the ‘Garage Days Re-Revisited’ EP. But other than slightly cleaner production, Metallica’s version doesn’t really have anything over the original.
Kyuss – the former home of Queens of the Stone Age star Josh Homme – may not ring up much (OK, any) classic rock radio airplay, but the influence of their sludgy post-Sabbath riff wizardry on future generations of bands can’t be denied. See if you can somehow resist this little slice of green napalm, and if you like it be sure to check out the rest of their 1993 masterpiece ‘Blues for the Red Sun.’
In his typically stylish, jazz-influenced manner, Steely Dan‘s Donald Fagen appears to be giving a former lover a very cold brush-off with this green song. It seems they’ve met up again years down the road, but all he can remember about their romantic encounter is her lovely jewelry. “No flies on me / Sorry angel, I must take what I see.”
If you’re gonna say “Green Onions” is too soulful to be on this list, well, let us just say we feel sorry for you. And we’re pretty sure Tom Petty (listen here), Pink Floyd and the galaxy of rock stars who performed the song with Booker T. at the 1992 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony would disagree with you as well.
“The Village Green Preservation Society”
The pseudo-title track from this nostalgic 1968 concept album finds the Kinks lamenting the growth of the industrial sector in their homeland, and longing for the days of quiet country towns. How much more environmentally “green” can you get?
“Green Grass and High Tides”
You know how every time a legendary rock star dies, people say the jam session in heaven just got cooler? Well, this epic green song from the Outlaws’ 1975 debut puts you front and center for that concert in the clouds, with “sliver stages,” “golden curtains” and a rainbow around the sun. It’s enough to make us green with envy!
This particular green song isn’t about the actual Green River (which runs through parts of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado), nor is it about some swampy, secret bayou down in Louisiana. Instead, the lyrics are John Fogerty‘s way of remembering the peace of mind he found at a childhood vacation spot – Putah Creek by Winters, Calif. As the Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman told Rolling Stone in 2012, “It wasn’t called Green River, but in my mind I always sort of called it Green River. All those little anecdotes are part of my childhood, those are things that happened to me actually, I just wrote about them and the audience shifted at the time and place.”
‘The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)’
So, who decided this song is the greenest of all green songs? A couple of legendary outfits named Judas Priest and the Melvins, that’s who! “Green Manalishi” is a raw, hard-hitting number from Fleetwood Mac‘s Peter Green-fronted era about a woman who just can’t be resisted, has been re-interpreted by many groups over time. That list includes both Judas Priest in 1978 and the Melvins in 1997, and that tips the emerald scales ever so slightly in Fleetwood Mac’s favor.