Saltwater: Song Review

Song: Saltwater
Artist: Julian Lennon
Year: 1991
Nationality: British

Theme: environment, future

What's it about?
This song is told from a first-person perspective. He talks about Earth and what he sees about him. Part of the song looks at how clever humans think they are because of the technological advances but then he refers to how at the same time humans are destroying the environment - namely forests in the song.

It's soft, thought provoking and you can understand all the words sung without needing the lyrics to interpret.

It only lightly touches on the subject of the environment.

I can remember this song when it was first released back in 1991. I was in primary school and it was one of those songs everyone seemed to know the lyrics too - I think helped a lot by its inclusion in the song festival books of the day.

The song is the type that you hear in the background and then realise afterwards what the song is actually about. It does not paint a "pretty" picture of humans. It discusses all the "achievements" mankind has made such as climbing up high mountains, making things grow where once nothing would, walking on the moon, taking photographs of plants in the solar system...and then it turns it all around to look at how we have children in the world who are starving, forests are being depleted and are dying, and the rising concern for the "ozone layer" which was very prevalent in the late 80s.

It's a song that really looks at what is valued first and what is sometimes more of an afterthought by the population in a general sense. This was a time when singers in particular were leading the way to bring attention to some of the issues facing part of the world - such as the famines and droughts in Africa and the illegal logging and clearing in the Amazon. Are these issues any less relevant now?

So is this song any good for the classroom? I think it has real merit to be used. For occasions such as Earth Day you might consider it as an introduction to how we impact on the environment. I would personally have the students listen to the song, read the lyrics, and then ask them to write a piece of work as to whether they feel the song is relevant/truthful and what era they think it was released.

Other analysis work can be done looking at some key lines in the song.

"We're so enchanted by how clever we are."  
This is one of my favourite lines from the song and I think having a brainstorm discussion as to what this actually means would really bring out some differences of opinion and debate in the classroom. It would also make for a historical comparison. As a society we do have a lot of technology but so did ancient civilisations such as the Greeks and Romans - they thought themselves clever as well, so why did it take so long for our society to understand some of the preview technological advances? 

"We are a billion children rolled into one."  
I chose this line because it refers to children and not people. To me at least this is pointing to the fact that as a civilisation we are still very young, our planet is young compared to others. Again, it would make for a discussion as to what it means - Does it refer to generations of children are making the same mistakes/advances? Does it refer to just the generation growing up? Is it saying that despite our intentions and saying we are all different we are actually very similar as a whole society in what and how we feel about things?

You can purchase the song for a small fee on iTunes.

This is the music video for Saltwater featuring Julian Lennon.

Click the logo to the left to visit the official website of
Julian Lennon.
Saltwater lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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