Every location has unique features, regardless of whether it is a city or a rural village. Sometimes, songwriters take inspiration from their surroundings when writing music. While some songwriters or artists sing about a specific location, others use a geographical feature as a metaphor to describe a feeling or emotion. One natural feature that is the focus of many songs is rivers. Here are 10 awesome songs about rivers.
10. Proud Mary, Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968)
John Fogerty wrote ‘Proud Mary’ and recorded it with his band Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1968 for their second studio album ‘Bayou Country.’ It peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Two years later, Ike & Tina Turner released a version of the song, which reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100. Tina Turner later released a solo version of the song. Proud Mary is the name of a steamboat that travels up and down the river, and the river is also used in a symbolic way to represent escape and rebirth.
9. Moon River, Audrey Hepburn (1961)
‘Moon River’ was originally sung by actress Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, and it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and Grammy Award for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The song was composed by Henry Mancini, and the lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer. Others who have recorded the song include Andy Williams, Danny Williams, Jerry Butler, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Chevy Chase, The Killers, Frank Ocean, and Morrissey.
8. Down by the River, Neil Young (1969)
‘Down by the River’ was written and recorded by Neil Young in 1969 for the album ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.’ He recorded the song with the rock band Crazy Horse. Young claimed that he wrote this song while delirious with a fever in Topanga Canyon. It is about a man who kills his lover when he becomes unable to cope with the emotional highs of their relationship. Young once claimed that the narrator killed the woman down by the river after she had cheated on him, yet in another interview, Young said that no murder takes place in the song, and it is more about a man’s desperate cry for help.
7. River, Joni Mitchell (1971)
Joni Mitchell wrote and recorded the song ‘River’ for her 1971 album ‘Blue.’ Despite Mitchell not releasing the song as a single, it went on to become her second-most recorded song by other artists, including Ellie Goulding, the cast of Glee, Barry Manilow, and Sarah McLachlan. The song is about a woman who is getting over the end of a relationship and struggling to escape her emotional bonds. It is believed that the song is about Mitchell’s relationship with Graham Nash.
6. Orinoco Flow (Sail Away), Enya (1988)
Enya recorded and released ‘Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)’ in 1988, and it is a song she co-wrote with Roma Ryan. It featured on Enya’s second studio album, ‘Watermark,’ and it is considered the song that elevated Enya to become the queen of New-age music. It topped the charts in the UK, Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands, and it peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
5. Take Me to the River, Al Green (1974)
Al Green co-wrote ‘Take Me to the River’ with Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges, and he recorded it in 1974 for his album ‘Al Green Explores Your Mind.’ The song features the musicians The Hodges Brothers, the Memphis Horns, and drummer Howard Grimes. Notable cover versions of the song were recorded by Syl Johnson and Talking Heads.
4. Watching the River Flow, Bob Dylan (1971)
Bob Dylan wrote ‘Watching the River Flow’ during a session at the Blue Rock Studio in New York City in 1971. He wrote it at a time when he was trying to create music that was less politically oriented. The song featured on the album ‘Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II.’ It charted in The United States, the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands. Artists who have covered this song include Colin James, Steve Gibbons, and the Earl Scruggs Revue.
3. The River, Bruce Springsteen (1980)
Zing Instruments lists Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’ as one of the best songs about rivers. Springsteen recorded the song with the E Street Band for the 1979 album of the same name. It was most successful in Europe, reaching the top ten in countries such as Norway and Sweden. Springsteen’s sister claimed that the song was about the early years of her marriage to her husband.
2. Cry Me a River, Justin Timberlake (2002)
‘Cry Me a River’ is a 2002 single written by Justin Timberlake, Timothy Mosley, and Scott Storch. Timberlake recorded the single for his debut solo album ‘Justified.’ It is believed that the lyrics were inspired by Timberlake’s relationship with singer Britney Spears, although Timberlake has never confirmed if this is true. The single was a top ten hit in Australia, Belgium, Croatia, France, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, the UK, and the United States.
1. River Deep, Mountain High, Ike & Tina Turner (1966)
One of the most awesome songs about rivers is ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. It was released in 1966 as the title track from Ike & Tina Turner’s album of the same name. The song was written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich. When the song was first released, it was successful in Europe but less so in the United States. Tina Turner later recorded solo versions of the song in 1986, 1991, and 1993. Many other artists have covered the song, including The Supremes and the Four Tops, Celine Dion, and a duet performed by Amber Riley and Naya Rivera.