Paddling Life Picks the 14 All-Time Best River Songs

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Yarmony Music Festival (www.yarmonymusisc.com)(Photo courtesy ShowLove Media/John-Ryan Lockman).

Though it’s hard to compare any sound to the river’s gurgle, some songs can keep you stoked to stroke even when you’re stuck in the office. Following are a few of our all-time favorites that provide subtle—and not-so-subtle—reminders of river running (editors are not responsible for off-key renditions in the shower)…

Band: Talking Heads
Song: Take Me to the River
Telling Lyric: “Take me to the river, drop me in the water/Washing me down, washing me down.”
Our Take: Isn’t there a rapid]i named Psycho Killer somewhere?

Band: Bruce Springsteen
Song: The River
Telling Lyric: “We’d go down to the river/And into the river we’d dive.”
Our Take: In this sorrowful tune about young love, hardship and unattainable dreams, the river represents freedom and happiness. Shouldn’t they call him the River Boss?

Band: Credence Clearwater Revival
Song: Proud Mary
Telling Lyric: “If you come down to the river/Bet you’re gonna find some people who live/You don’t have to worry cause you have no money/People on the river are happy to give/Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river.”
Our Take: How many times have kayakers sung this while practicing rolls? Plus, what song better sums up the generous spirit of paddlers? Alternative tune: Green River.

Band: U2
Song: One Tree Hill
Telling Lyric: “We run like the river/Run to the sea.”
Our Take: “And when it’s raining, raining in your harrah, ahhahha, oooh, ahhh…” Sing along at own risk.

Band: Johnny Cash
Song: Big River
Telling Lyric: “Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry, cry, cry/And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky/And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you Big River/Then I’m gonna sit right here until I die.”
Our Take: No one has written better river campfire songs than the Man in Black. R.I.P.

Band: Willie Nelson
Song: Whiskey River
Telling Lyric: “Whiskey River take my mind/Don’t let her mem’ry torture me/Whiskey River don’t run dry/You’re all I’ve got, take care of me.”
Our Take: If ever a musician looked like a river guide, it’s Willie, even though his song relates more to boozing than boating.

Band: Peter Gabriel
Song: Washing of the Water
Telling Lyric: “River, oh river, river running deep/Bring me something that will let me get to sleep/In the washing of the water will you take it all away/Bring me something to take this pain away.”
Our Take: The healing power of a river trip.

Band: Neil Young
Song: Down by the River
Telling Lyric: “Down by the river/I shot my baby/Down by the river/Dead, oh, shot her dead.”
Our Take: She must have skipped out on groover duty.

Band: The Beatles
Song: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Telling Lyric: “Picture yourself in a boat on a river/With tangerine trees and marmalade skies/Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly/A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”
Our Take: Must be dehydration.

Band: Dolly Parton
Song: Islands in the Stream
Telling Lyric: “Islands in the stream/That is what we are/No one in-between/How can we be wrong”
Our Take: Rumor has it she came up with the lyrics while taking a bath.

Band: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Song: Naked in the Rain
Telling Lyric: “Naked in the river skinny dippin’ my way/In the waterfall, I just want to play.”
Our Take: Though dropping a falls is addictive, landing next to a naked Anthony Kiedis might make you swear off of boating for life.

Band: Bob Dylan
Song: Blue River
Telling Lyric: “Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go/Blue River runnin’ slow and lazy/I could stay with you forever/And never realize the time.”
Our Take: Though he sometimes runs on like a river, there’s nothing better than chillin’ with Dylan.

Band: Grateful Dead
Song: Black Muddy River
Telling Lyric: “Black muddy river, roll on forever/I don’t care how deep or wide, if you’ve got another side/Roll muddy river.”
Our Take: If ever someone had river hair, it’s Jerry.

Band: Hank Williams
Song: Long Gone Lonesome Blues
Telling Lyric: “I’m gonna find me a river, one that’s cold as ice/And when I find me that river, Lawd I’m gonna pay the price/Oh Lawd, I’m goin’ down in it three times/But Lawd, I’m only comin’ up twice.”
Our Take: Hand that man a PFD.

Main image credit John Ryan/Show Love Media.