Paddling Life’s All-time Best River Songs

1956

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. Warning: we’re 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 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.

Bribe of the Month!
OK, so we’re dirtbags looking for free tunes. But you can’t blame us for wanting our river songs. Burn us a CD with all the above songs and we’ll send you a special Paddling Life care package including T-shirt and hat. Send to Paddling Life River Tunes, P.O. Box 775589, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477. Offer not available for Napster employees.