small blue flowers


Take me to the river

For this month's theme of things 'geographical' (we all have different takes on this) I decided to look at geographical features and after mulling over a few I'm starting off with rivers. I had thought that when starting this I'd be struggling to find tracks, but actually, there's hundreds of them.

But why rivers? What's so special about them that makes musicians write about them time and again. In general, civilization owes an immense debt to them. There's hardly a major city, certainly in Europe, that isn't built on a river. Paris (Seine), London (Thames), Belgrade/Budapest/Bratislava (Danube) to name a few. In fact if you take the rivers Euphrates and Tigris in Iraq, they are two of the four rivers mentioned in the Bible that are said to flow from the Garden of Eden. On a non-religious note, civilization is believed to have began there in about 4000 BC, principally because the fertile regions around the area gave the perfect environment for humans to settle together. That's why the region is of such historical interest and value.

I guess the most famous song involving rivers is Brice Springsteen's 'The River'. There, it seems to me, the river is a place of calm, a place for him and his wife to escape the hardships of life. Maybe even a place where their worries and fears are washed away and they can be together. Of course, metaphorically, it probably means their love, their joy of being with one another. So at the end of the song when Springsteen sings 'that sends me down to the river though I know the river is dry' he's singing about the end of the love in their relationship, the realization that the spark that was once there has gone.

So, literal or metaphorical, the river is still a powerful image to use in a song. Neil Young's 'Down by the River' seems to use the river as some kind of division device too. A barrier between him and his 'baby', although truth be told, I can't really figure out those lyrics. Talking Heads' "Take me to the River" seems a bit easier, the river there is a metaphor for change. Here he is on his sixteenth birthday prepared to give up everything for this girl, it may even be in an effort to get his first experience of sex. Although I can't help feel that when David Byrne is singing 'Dip me in the water, drop me in the water' there's an allusion to Achilles, like this girl is his achilles heel.

Haha, listen to me go all english litcrit. Still, it's my take on these songs. Hope you enjoy them

mp3: Bruce Springsteen - The River

mp3: Talking Heads - Take Me to the River

mp3: Neil Young - Down by the River

buy: Springsteen /Talking Heads / Young

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Blogger Simone said...

Down By The River: excellent song. Almost apocalyptic in it's awesomeness.

I can email you three different versions of Many Rivers to Cross if that helps...

10:48 am  
Blogger BVS said...

Although i love the Talking Heads, Al Green's (original) version is just as essential...

5:37 pm  
Blogger Quanta said...

simone, I think I'm finished with rivers, thanks though. I nearly posted the Low/Dirty Three version as well.

bvs, I had absolutely no idea it was a cover.

6:27 pm  

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