In this show, written for Middle School students, Billy B. brings to life important yet often dry topics such as; rain forest history and it’s importance , the ozone layers depletion and restoration, and the biological indicators for water quality. Most importantly, he speaks of what people can, and have done, and are doing about these situations. By using these subjects in parodies of popular rock and rap songs Billy brings a sense of comedy, performance and clever guitar work to entertain while educating. Often, when Billy is performing in an Elementary School that goes up to the sixth grade, Billy will weave some of this material into the show he is doing to better reach the sixth graders.
Billy starts this show referring to the earth on the backdrop behind him. He give his audience an idea of our distance from the sun and our diminutive size compared to the sun by saying “If the sun was a big as a basket ball show me with your hands how big would the earth would be ? ( it would have a diameter of about 1/16th of an inch and be about 65 feet from the basketball ). He then talks about the amazing features of our planet which allow and sustain life on it’s surface and in it’s seas. He talks about he history of photosynthesis, a by product of which was the development of the ozone layer ( O 3 ). He speaks of how the ozone layer allowed life on land to flourish by filtering out harmful radiation from the sun. He then explains how we, using a molecular structure called CFC for air-conditioning and a host of other applications, unwittingly damaged the ozone. He then comes to one of the major conceptual points of the show, upon discovering the damage the CFC’s were causing, the world community changed it behavior. In 1988, 38 major industrial countries came together and signed the Montreal Protocol which has greatly reduced the release of CFC’s into the atmosphere. Studies now show the Ozone layer is on a track to achieve it’s former condition by 2050. In short, good news.
This leads to the music. Billy has found many middle schoolers are well aware of the classic rock and rap songs ( partially due to computer game guitar hero ). So his first parody is of “Stairway to Heaven”. He changes it to “UV rays from Heaven”, “There’s a lady I know, whose skin cancer grows, cause she’s frying in UV rays from heaven”. He then takes Bob Marley’s song “No Woman, No Cry” and changes it to “No Ozone We Fry”.
With his parody of Nelly’s rap, “Hot in Here”, Billy speaks of forest floor decomposition in his version titled “Rotten Here”. He also, in setting this song up, introduces a finding that has been developing in the last thirty years of a very important and ubiquitous symbiotic relationship in the soil; fungus ( mycorrhizae ) working with most root systems to help the roots absorb minerals and nutrients from the ground. The idea is, the more we investigate even seemingly simple things, roots, we find beautiful and efficient complexity.
Other parodies are, after talking about why there is so much amazing biological diversity in the Rain Forest, Tom Petty’s song “Free Falling” which becomes about a dung beetle that flies around under monkeys not waiting for the manure to hit the ground, also called “Free Falling”. “The Men In Black” becomes “The Flies in Black”. The subject being water quality as exhibited by the “macroinvertebrates” ( larval and nymph stages of insect life ) that live in a stream. The Clean Water Act is also held up as a successful example of changing our behavior as every major river in America is cleaner today than it was 30 years ago. And perhaps the profound image of behavior changing success that Billy discusses is the return of our country’s symbol, the Bald Eagle.