As you’ve no doubt realized by now, this is our annual Animal Issue. We’ve had nothing but animals on our brains for the past week. So naturally, I started thinking about my favorite animal-related songs. There’s a full playlist below, but here are my five favorites.
“Elephant,” Jason Isbell
I don’t want to start off on a sad song, but I also don’t want to listen to Isbell’s classic song of pain after coming off something peppy like “Dominic the Donkey” (spoiler alert: it’s not on this list.) This tune is about a woman’s last days fighting cancer and trying not to talk about the inevitable elephant in the room. The song is gut-wrenchingly beautiful, painful and worth every single tear you shed while listening to it.
“Leave My Monkey Alone,” Warren Zevon
Zevon is easily one of my five favorite recording artists of all time and Sentimental Hygiene is easily my favorite Zevon record. “Leave my Monkey Alone” is a sweet surprise, a dance song on the same record as my favorite Zevon tune, the dark and brooding “Boom Boom Mancini.” Despite its poppy sound, the theme is still very Zevon — the fight for decolonization in Africa.
The Wilson sisters play the crap out of this hard-rock tune that’s recognizable as soon as you hear those opening guitar riffs. There are so many reasons to love this song — the music, the lyrics, the theme (a takedown of record company “promotion” techniques). And in the 2008 election, it was used as a theme song for Republican candidate for vice president Sarah Palin. The band got pissed, called out the GOP publicly and got fat royalties from the song’s illegitimate use.
“Typical American,” The Goats
This song and the album it appeared on, Tricks of the Shade, is the greatest political hip-hop record in history. The Goats were a socially conscious trio out of Philadelphia and this album was a 29-cut concept record/takedown of policies from the Reagan-Bush era that led the country into war and made the poor poorer. The message is strong and the rhymes are stronger.
“Glorified G,” Pearl Jam
Yes, this is a song about the absurdity of our nation’s gun culture, but here me out while I explain the animal ties. First, this tune is on Pearl Jam’s Vs. album, which of course has a ticked-off sheep on the cover. And secondly, when I first heard this song and Eddie Vedder sang the line, “Glorified version of a pellet gun,” I thought he said, “Glorified version of a pelican.” In fact, I still sing that line on occasion today.