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The Experience Playlist: The Outdoors

A Spotify playlist of songs about nature, travel, rivers, and the moon — from Toots and the Maytals, Sam Cooke, The Chicks, Chicano Batman, and more.

By Erick Trickey

For our playlist on the outdoors, we looked for songs whose lyrics evoke nature as beauty, escape, a place for mediation, and a location for liberation.

Sam Cooke leads off the playlist with his version of “Summertime,” the 1935 classic with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by DuBose Heyward. Toots and the Maytals’ adaptation of the John Denver hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads” relocates the song from West Virginia to their native nation (“almost heaven, West Jamaica”). Denver himself, a frequent lyricist of the outdoors, makes the playlist with “Rocky Mountain High,” his ode to Colorado.

Travel to the country figures prominently in our playlist. For Creedence Clearwater Revival in “Green River” and Canned Heat in “Going Up the Country,” the country symbolizes rejuvenation amid 1960s tumult. In “Wide Open Spaces,” The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks) sing of setting out west as a turning point toward independence and full adulthood. And Woody Guthrie’s alternative national anthem, “This Land Is Your Land,” roams across the U.S. with a universal vision, this time in the hands of Los-Angeles based Latin rock band Chicano Batman.

Our playlist ends with two classic ballads about the moon: Elvis Presley’s ethereal version of Rodgers and Hart’s “Blue Moon” from his early Sun sessions and Audrey Hepburn’s delicate performance of “Moon River,” written for the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer.

Listen to our playlist as you read our July and August stories on the future of the outdoors.

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