Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Songs Involving Rivers

Julie and I spent the early hours of Labor Day hiking alongside the Catawba River.

Which, of course, got me thinking:  what are some good songs that capture the movement and mystery of rivers?

Here they are:

One. River, by Jason Isbell.  This is the newest — and best — on this list as it comes from Isbell’s 2020 release, Reunions.  It begins with at the intersection of poetry and meteorology:

The river is my savior
‘Cause she used to be a cloud
She’s happy just to lay there
When she used to be so proud

And then he mixes the religious with the juvenile:

The river is my savior
The only one I’ll ever need
Wash my head when I’ve been sinnin’
Wash my knuckles when they bleed

And then the song’s coda gives a “wow, I’d never thought of it that way before but it makes perfect sense” moment:

The river is my savior 

She’s running to the sea 

And to reach her destination

Is to simply cease to be.

All these lines, by the way, are delivered with Isbell’s customary clarity and beauty.  Here’s the song itself:


Two.  “In The River,” The Call.  This 80s band was instrumental in my own spiritual rebirth that ultimately led to seminary. This chaotic tune with dominant bass line has all the destruction and rebirth of a Flannery O’Connor story put to music:

Three.  “The River,” Bruce Springsteen.

Four.  “Goodbye To A River,” Don Henley.  Inspired by a book of the same name and in honor of Texas’ Brazos River.  Video not available.


Five.  “Take Me To The River,” Talking Heads.  This one reminds me of the early days of MTV.