Nature's Way

Album: Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970)
Charted: 111
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is a reflection on mortality, and also a lament for the fate of the Earth, as nature is telling us that something is wrong. The song was written long before climate change became a hot topic, but even in 1970, some ecologically minded songwriters were concerned about Mother Earth.
  • This was written by Spirit's guitarist, Randy California. It was a very personal song, and in some ways, his maxim. The song deals with how nature guides you, and that's just what he did throughout his career. Spirit reached #25 US in 1969 with "I Got A Line On You," a track from their second album, but the group remained on the fringes of breakout success, in part because they turned down an invitation to play Woodstock.

    California got heavy into LSD and became even more mercurial. In 1970, he was riding a horse on the streets of Topanga Canyon when he fell off and fractured his skull. The same year, he wrote "Nature's Way," which was included on Spirit's fourth album, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. California left the group in 1972 and the band splintered soon after. Sardonicus found a following and eventually sold over a million copies, prompting an iff-fated band reunion in 1976. California died in 1997 when he drowned while swimming in Hawaii.
  • David Briggs, who was one of Neil Young's producers, produced this track. The back was dealing with a lot of internecine conflict at the time, and Briggs helped keep them focused and productive enough to complete the album.
  • Randy California recorded various versions of this song as a solo artist. In interviews, he sometimes talked about never being able to get it right.
  • The album is named after a 1963 horror movie called Dr. Sardonicus, about a man whose face is frozen in a creepy grin after he digs up his father's grave.
  • This song is unusual in that every line begins with the phrase "It's nature's way."
  • Spirit's bass player at this time was Mark Andes, who a few years later founded Firefall. In the 2010s, Firefall started performing the song, in part to honor Randy California, and in 2020 they recorded it for their album Comet with Timothy B. Schmit from the Eagles and John McFee from the Doobie Brothers performing on it.

    "I wanted to give Randy a little love and I had been asked by lots of different people to record their version of 'Nature's Way' with them," Anders said on the Songfacts Podcast. "I resisted because I felt whoever I do 'Nature's Way' with, it's like I'm endorsing or acknowledging that it's worthy of that. When Firefall started to mine the depths of the root system of the group's family tree, those songs really got a great response, so we started to play 'Nature's Way,' and the way we played it was pretty much how we recorded it. Timothy recorded his vocal in his studio and we sent that to John McFee, who put on a little pedal steel. So it was a fun deal and it was to honor Randy."

Comments: 9

  • Kirk from Tampa, Fl.It's not soon we'll freeze, it's summer breeze!
  • Robert From Washington from SeattleTruly a great, great song by a seriously underappreciated band, but in the second verse the lyric is *it's in the breeze*, NOT *soon we'll freeze*. It's wrong here and nearly everywhere else and should be fixed! Sorry, but it bugs me and Randy deserves better.
  • Rick from Boulder CreekI first heard Nature's Way in Santa Cruz, CA on the beach through someone's radio. I love the chord progression. I've committed it to memory. However, I cannot understand why the lyrics are so thin, so very sparse. I just feel there has to be more to say. Or is it that the magic lies in the unsaid?
  • Ricky Singer from Long BeachLove this whole Album since the day it came out. Still in my top 10
  • Michael C from New Mexico Tr4head from Wnc: Beefy Boy from Memphis is right. In the early 1960s we were taught about the effects of the human production of carbon dioxide and the “greenhouse effect” as it was referred to then. Often when a system is disturbed, increased variability (including uncharacteristic cold periods) is evidenced even before the eventual trend (warning, as we now know) can be determined. That said, the song speaks clearly and prophetically of earth being out of balance.
  • Rex from FloridaSaw Spirit open up for Cream in Anaheim, California and was blown away....became an instant fan. Use to go see them when they played at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, California. Years later while living in Orlando, Spirit put on a free outdoor concert (Randy California and Ed Cassidy were the only original members). After they finished I had had a chance to talk to Randy and talk about the early shows that I had seen them. A few months later I learned about his drowning. He wrote and played some great tunes. Still a Spirit fan today.
  • Beefy Boy from Memphis Tr4head, climate change is the result of warming, but the effect on earth is sometimes, depending on time and place, cooling. Climate is a science, and we non-climatologists depend on experts in the field to tell us their findings, just as we depend on a doctor’s opinion about a body ailment. Scientists in the field say, overwhelmingly and unequivocally, that man-made climate change is a fact. Some scientists did believe the earth was cooling decades ago, but the models were incomplete. Some, though, thought the earth was warming, and this was and is correct. Randy C. was taking a stab at it with his pretty song, and he might well have used the word “freeze” because it rhymes with rhymes with “trees.” Were he here today, I’m pretty sure he’d not be a warming denier (I.e., Fox News idiot).
  • Tr4head from WncGood take, but I would correct on the "climate" issue. Back then we were concerned about COOLING, not WARMING, as the lyrics clearly show. So, this should tell all of us that mans views on climate has always been suspect and not incontrovertable facts.
  • Denise from SantafeDecades later this song still resonates on so many levels. It’s almost a blessing that the writer isn’t here to see what a mess this planet is. Nature’s Way illustrates the best of Spirit in this song about facing mortality and the dangers of man to the environment.
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