Rivers have always been a source of inspiration for musicians and songwriters, due to their natural beauty and powerful currents.
These waterways, ranging from gentle mountain streams to wild and raging rapids, have captured the imaginations of artists for centuries.
In this article, we will delve into 17 great songs about rivers, each offering its own unique perspective on this timeless theme.
Whether you enjoy folk, rock, pop, or any other genre, you are sure to find a song on this list that resonates with you.
This collection is suitable for both seasoned river enthusiasts and those simply looking for new tunes to add to their playlists and is guaranteed to provide hours of listening pleasure.
1. Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival
To open up this list we have a song written by the great John Fogerty and recorded by his country group Creedence Clearwater Revival.
In July 1969 Green River saw daylight and was included in the album of the same name.
The song alludes to a place where Fogerty used to go as a child with his family.
2. Dam That River – Alice In Chains
Alice In Chains was one of the bands that forged the foundations of grunge.
In 1992 they released their second studio album titled Dirt and the track Dam That River was included in it.
This aggressive rock song is about being trapped in a destructive and toxic relationship.
The river serves as a symbol of the emotional turmoil and feelings of being caught in a cycle of abuse and manipulation that the narrator is experiencing.
3. Down By The River – Neil Young
In this position, the well-known Neil Young makes his appearance with a song from his album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
The song’s title and lyrics use the metaphor of a river as a symbol for the flow of emotion.
However, fans have come up with various interpretations of the song, including suggestions for drug references.
4. The River Of Dreams – Billy Joel
This smooth, mellow ballad was released in 1993 on the album River of Dreams.
The song is one of the best-known Billy Joel songs and expresses a sense of hope and possibility.
As it sounds, the song encourages the audience to embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Besides, the river serves as a powerful and effective symbol, perfectly capturing the idea of navigating through the ups and downs of life and striving towards a sense of purpose.
5. Take Me To The River – Talking Heads
This upbeat, funky song was released by the Talking Heads in 1978 on their album More Songs About Buildings and Food.
The lyrics describe a desire to be taken to a place where the narrator can cleanse his soul and wash his hands in the river which is used as a metaphor for renewal and purification.
6. Cry Me A River – Justin Timberlake
Released in 2002, Cry Me A River is a mid-tempo R&B song from the album Justified that tells the story of a heartbroken man who has been cheated on by his partner.
The “river” in the title of the song serves as a metaphor for the narrator’s thirst for revenge.
Besides, this piece is known for its catchy, upbeat melody and Timberlake’s smooth, emotive vocals.
7. River – Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell’s song River, released in 1971 on her album Blue, is a melancholic ballad.
The word “river” is used metaphorically to represent that the narrator is feeling stagnant and overwhelmed by their emotions.
Its lyrics reflect the idea of the river as a symbol of introspection and self-reflection.
8. Following the River – The Rolling Stones
Following the River is a bluesy rock song released by The Rolling Stones on their 1989 album Steel Wheels.
The theme of the musical piece is one of exploration and self-discovery, with the metaphor of the river serving as a symbol for the narrator’s journey.
9. London Calling – The Clash
Up to this point, everyone may know this punk rock anthem released by The Clash.
In 1979, London Calling saw the light of day and was included in the album of the same name.
This punk anthem emphasizes the fact that If the River Thames floods, the people living along its banks would be at risk of drowning.
10. Down By The Water – PJ Harvey
This is a raw and emotional song released in 1995 and takes part in PJ Harvey’s album To Bring You My Love.
The tune uses the metaphor of water to represent the narrator’s feelings of despair and being unable to escape her problems.
The title of the song suggests a sense of being at a low point and feeling overwhelmed by life’s challenges.
Therefore, the main themes of the song are despair and hopelessness.
11. I Am A River – Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl has always been amazing while performing and evoking strong feelings, and this song is no exception.
Released in 2014 and taking part in the album Sonic Highways, this track expresses a sense of freedom, resilience, and determination.
12. The River – Bruce Springsteen
13. Watching The River Flown – Bob Dylan
14. River So Wide – Phill Collins
15. Yes, The River Knows – The Doors
16. Down To The River To Pray – Alison Krauss
17. River – Leon Bridges
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.