Song of the Week

EHSDA Song of the Week: Beds Are Burning

We’ve spent a fair amount of time this week talking about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, and one point that repeatedly comes up is that ESG involves more than just the “E.” With that in mind, our Song of the Week is a certified banger about indigenous land rights in Australia: “Beds Are Burning” by Midnight Oil.

The Australian band had previously written about political issues when it released the 1987 album Diesel and Dust. The band’s sixth album, the entire release is a concept album about issues facing indigenous Australians and environmental concerns.

But “Beds Are Burning” caught on with audiences worldwide and became Midnight Oil’s biggest hit. It went to #1 in New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa, #3 in the Netherlands, #5 in France, #6 in the U.K., Australia, and Ireland, and #17 in the U.S. and Sweden.

The song was written after the band toured through the Australian Outback in 1986, playing in remote Aboriginal communities and noting many issues with health and living standards. Songwriters Peter Garrett, Jim Moginie, and Rob Hirst called attention to examples of people being forcibly removed from their land.

“The time has come to say fair’s fair/To pay the rent, to pay our share/The time has come, a fact’s a fact/It belongs to them, we’re gonna give it back.”

Midnight Oil already had the reputation of being a great live band, and the song brought them to the attention of alternative rock fans looking for something different. MTV played the video regularly and the song even hit the Dance charts. Diesel and Dust was a big hit as well, going to #1 on the album charts in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia and reaching #21 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S.

The band continued to have success throughout the ’90s before lead singer Garrett quit the band to run for political office in Australia (he was a member of the House of Representatives for a few years and was later appointed as Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and the Arts and later Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth). The band reunited for a tour in 2017 and released a new album in 2022 before embarking on what they called was their final tour.

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