Many artists have penned paeans to Mother Nature, but only a few can make my list. Sentimental songs about the beauty of the wilderness often cross over into the sappy and trite. No matter how genuine the appreciation, I can't reward repetitive cheesiness. To make my list, a song needs to offer more: a new perspective on what it means to be outside.
10. Stinkin' Up the Great Outdoors - Spinal Tap: Only the Tap could write such a song celebrating rock, drunkenness, general dissolution, and public exhibition. They may be a pretend band, but they know the true gift of the great outdoors: the freedom to be completely and utterly your whole, stinking self.
9. Hunting the Duck - Zeke Hoskin: An upbeat ditty lampooning duck hunters from the city. It's a parody of the idea of masculinity. (If you're a real hunter, you'd be above all this because you'd actually know how to hunt. And I'm sure you'd get a laugh out of listening, too.)
8. Too Drunk to Fish - Ray Stevens: Humorous and sage advice against going fishing with an inebriated buddy, lest you risk a sinking boat by an errant shotgun. Yes, it paints a ridiculous scenario, but it does make you think twice about choosing which of your buddies to take on a trip. You want to imbibe at leisure, but you don't want to go overboard, literally.
6. Fred Bear - Ted Nugent: This song wasn't meant to be funny--it intends reverence to "the spirit of the woods"--but the Nuge so likes to perform it shirtless that I can't help but chuckle. Seriously, though, it's on this list because it performs the rare feat of bringing animism into rock 'n' roll.
4. River - Joni Mitchell: A beautiful song that sees nature as an escape from our troubles, and even from ourselves. (Mitchell actually lived completely alone and without electricity in the wilderness for a time.)
3. Rocky Mountain High - John Denver: He's got a reputation as an ingenuous cheeseball, but his earnestness hits the right notes in this one. He shows us how the wilderness can transform us, presenting the possibility of a spiritual rebirth.
2. Quiet Man - John Prine: An appreciation of dark, deep nights, with a star-filled sky above. A song that perfectly captures that certain zen feeling you can only get when you're out there.
Courtesy of Ron Baker/Flickr
1. Buffalo River Home - John Hiatt: I love this song; it's got so much soul, especially the acoustic version. Hiatt sings of being lost in the social wilderness, trying to make sense of life as you wander around to figure out where you're going and where you ultimately belong.
Those are my picks. What songs do you think should be on this list? You can post them in the comments section.