Songs for a better world S-Z

Simple gifts

Somewhere there’s a forest

Swim on, swim on ***

The best things in life are free

The Earth is our Mother

The family of man

The garden song

The river is flowing

This pretty planet

What do we plant when we plant a tree?

What have they done to the rain?

Last updated: 9/20/2019 4:00 PM

The songs below are compiled, adapted and illustrated by Dany Rosevear

*** Original songs by Dany Rosevear

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To watch the author sing a song click on the title at:


© Dany Rosevear 2008 All rights reserved

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Simple gifts O




Composed by Joseph Brockett in 1848 it was written as a dance song:

I first came across this song in the 1960s; the delightful tune became a very familiar one in school assemblies as ‘Lord of the dance’ by Sidney Carter. I added it to my class music collection from a BBC Publication ‘Singing Together’ Spring 1974 to where it was described as an American ‘Shaker’ song; I have omitted the second verse as it was not in the original version.













































'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be;

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.

To turn, turn, will be our delight,

'Till by turning, turning we come round right.



Somewhere there's a forest 🔊



We all need our moments of peace and fresh air.

This song was written by Susan Stevens and appears in the ‘Our chalet songbook’ published in 1974 and then ABC schools ‘Sing!’ 1995.
























Somewhere there's a forest,

Where you can stand and dream,

And walk alone beside the waters

Of a forest stream.


Where quietness and peace of mind,

Are waiting there for you to find,

So leave the noisy world behind,

For just a little while.


Somewhere there's a seashore,

Where the wind is blowing free,

And wheeling seagulls call above,

The music of the sea.



Somewhere there's a hillside,

Where you can climb at dawn,

And wonder at the sunrise,

As another day is born.




Swim on, swim on 🔊


A wish for our world's waters. What are you doing to help keep our oceans fit for the future? A song to encourage a discussion of how we, in our small way, can make a difference to the survival of the creatures and species we love.























Swim, swim through the waters,

Little fish of the sea,

Through the clear, salty waters,

Swim on merrily.

With no more pollution

And no microbeads,

Swim on, swim on,

So wild and so free.


Plough on through the oceans,

Great whales of the sea,

May your journeys be long

And your passage be free,

From waters polluted

With the plastic bags gone,

Plough on, plough on,

Sing your beautiful songs.


It’s the future we are spoiling

For our natural world,

With plastic, noise and garbage

That will never grow old.

Please think what you are doing,

Keep our water’s alive,

Think on, think on,

So our oceans can thrive.




The best things in life are free 🔊




Appreciate what we have and make the most of our natural world.

Written for the 1927 musical ‘Good News’ with lyrics by Buddy DeSylva and Lew Brown and music by Ray Henderson. There was a revival of the song in the 1950s by a number of well known singers. Find out more.











































The Moon belongs to ev'ryone,

The best things in life are free.

The stars belong to ev'ryone,

They gleam there for you and me.


The flowers in spring,

The robins that sing,

The sunbeams that shine,

They're yours, they're mine!

And love can come to ev’ryone,

The best things in life are free.


The stars in the sky

The Moon on high

They're great because they're free.



The Earth is our Mother 🔊



A song for Earth Day. “The earth is not just our environment. The earth is our mother.” so said the Dalai Lama. This song was inspired by the 1854 speech of Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe, it is ‘a tribute to the seamless web of spirituality, life, and land.’




































The earth is our mother,

We must take care of her.

The earth is our mother,

We must take care of her.


Hey yana, ho yana, hey yan yan.

Hey yana, ho yana, hey yan yan.


Her sacred ground we walk upon,

With every step we take.

Her sacred ground we walk upon,

With every step we take.



The earth is our mother,

She will take care of us.

The earth is our mother,

She will take care of us.




The family of man 🔊




A song for our times - together we can make a difference.

Words and music by Karl Dallas.

This song from ‘Come and Praise’ BBC radio for schools, was very popular in assemblies all the years I taught and always sung with much gusto.

The second verse resonates very personally as my larger family is spread around the world including Perth and Paris!

I have very gently tweaked some of the less contemporary words and replaced them with more inclusive language; deleting ‘coolie’ and culling ‘men’! Though the ‘man’ of the title of course refers to ‘mankind’.  

I loveThe miner in the Rhondda’ / but if you wish to be more up to date sing ‘The miner in Wyoming’ as most coal is produced there.

Apparently the songwriter sings it differently each time so I would imagine this version is an acceptable one! See discussion at:















































I belong to a family, the biggest on the earth;

Ten thousand every day are coming to birth.

Our name isn't Davis, or Groves, or Jones,

It's a name everyone can be glad we own:


It’s the family of man, keeps growing,

The family of man, keeps sowing

The seeds of a new life every day.


I've got a sister in Perth, a brother in Paree,

The whole wide world is mum and dad to me.

Wherever you go you will find my kin,

Whatever the creed or colour of skin:


The miner in the Rhondda, the builder in Beijing,

Those across the ocean who plough, reap and spin,

They've got a life and others to share it,

So let's bridge the oceans and declare it:


Now some people say the world is a terrible place,

But it's just as good or bad as the human race;

Dirt and misery or health and joy,

We can build or we can destroy:



The garden song / Inch by inch, row by row 🔊



A song for the growing season written by David Mallet. It has been sung by Pete Seeger and John Denver among others.































Inch by inch, row by row,

Gonna make this garden grow.

All it takes is a rake and a hoe

And a piece of fertile ground.

Inch by inch, row by row,

Someone bless these seeds I sow,

Someone warm them from below,

'Til the rain comes tumbling down.


Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones,

We are made of dreams and bones,

Feel the need to grow my own, for the time is close at hand.

Grain for grain, sun and rain,

We are part of Nature's chain,

Tune my body and my brain to the music from the land. CHORUS


Plant your rows straight and long,

Temper them with prayer and song,

Mother Earth will make you strong, if you give her love and care.

Old crow watching hungrily,

From his perch in yonder tree,

In my garden I'm as free, as that feathered thief up there. CHORUS

Just found this extra verse!

Brothers, sisters all around

This is where our garden’s found.

Side by side we work the ground to help these seedlings grow.

Water them with love and care,

Trust the promise that we share.

Keep them healthy and prepare for our first fruit to show.




The river is flowing 🔊



The source of this song was probably a chant written in the 1970s by Sun Bear, a member of the Chippewa Tribe. He was born in the White Earth Reservation in the North of the United States on 31 August 1926 and died on 19 June 1992 at the age of 66 in Spokane, Washington. Additional verses have been added over the years and you can find several interpretations of the melody. Find more at: and

I have adapted the words of the final verse to lament a changing world and hope for the future of our children.

In German ‘der fluss der will fließen’







































The river is flowing, flowing and growing,

The river is flowing, back to the sea.

Mother Earth carry me, your child I will always be,

Mother Earth carry me, back to the sea.


The moon she is waiting, waxing and waning,

The moon she is waiting, for us to be free.

Sister Moon watch over me, your child I will always be,

Sister Moon watch over me, until we are free!


The sun he is shining, brightly he’s shining,

The sun he is shining, lighting our way.

Father Sun shine over me, your child I will always be,

Father Sun shine over me, until we can see!


The earth she is changing, her waters are rising,

The earth she is changing, her waters are tears.

Mother Earth, carry me, your child I will always be,

Mother Earth carry me, down through the years.



This pretty planet 🔊



This wonderful song by Tom Chapin is more usually sung as a round. It is also sung as a lullaby.

This amazing song went round the entire world when it was one of the songs used to wake up the astronauts, including John Glen, on the Discovery 7 space shuttle!


1.Make a ball with hands, roll forearms round each other. 2. Make flower round face, arms make waves, hands together as in prayer. 3. Lift arms up and outwards, as in first line. 4. Hands to cheek, hold arms, Lift arms up and outwards.


































This pretty planet, spinning through space,

Your garden, your harbour, your holy place.

Golden sun going down,

Gentle blue giant spin us around.

All through the night,

Safe ‘til the morning light.



What do we plant when we plant a tree? 🔊



Inspired by a poem written by Henry Abbey. Music and second verse by Dany Rosevear.

‘A child who kneels to plant a tree rises richer from the ground.’ Theresa StevensHe that plants trees loves other besides himself.’ Find more quotes here.





























What do we plant, when we plant a tree?

A thousand things that we daily see;

We plant the ship, which will cross the sea.

We plant the house for both you and me.

We plant the shade, from the hot sun free;

We plant all these, when we plant a tree.


As those who plant kindness gather up love,

So those who plant trees cleanse the air up above;

And shelter the wildlife of our natural world,

And give us wellbeing and a future unspoiled;

Simply walk in the wood and think deep my dear child,

We plant all this, when we plant a tree.



What have they done to the rain? 🔊



A song composed by Malvina Reynolds in 1962 and still relevant today. It was written for the protest movement against nuclear testing in the atmosphere and its subsequent fallout; it had a particular resonance in the wake of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WW2.

We should take heed of the mistakes made in the past and ensure that  we do better to give our world a safe future and to keep the air clean for those of us who live there.

Malvina Reynolds has written many other thoughtful songs.

Another from my 1960s notebook.






































Just a little rain falling all around,

The grass lifts its head to the heavenly sound,

Just a little rain, just a little rain,

What have they done to the rain?


Just a little boy standing in the rain,

The gentle rain that falls for years.

And the grass is gone and the boy disappears,

And rain keeps falling like helpless tears,

And what have they done to the rain?


Just a little breeze out of the sky,

The leaves nod their head as the breeze blows by,

Just a little breeze with some smoke in its eye,

What have they done to the rain?


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