Week 401: The River, by Bruce Springsteen

I believe that the singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen is most associated with the genre of music known as rock. This is not a genre I am familiar with, so I cannot say whether this particular song about the death of young dreams belongs to it, but I can say that I think the lyrics, even without Bruce to belt them out, make an effective poem – a bit roughhewn maybe, but poignantly sincere. Evidently Bruce wrote it following conversations he had with his brother-in-law, after the latter lost his job and went through hard times trying to provide his family.

The River

I come from down in the valley
Where mister when you’re young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Me and Mary we met in high school
When she was just seventeen
We’d ride out of this valley down to where the fields were green

We’d go down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we’d ride

Then I got Mary pregnant
And man that was all she wrote
And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
We went down to the courthouse
And the judge put it all to rest
No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
No flowers no wedding dress

That night we went down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we did ride

I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember
Mary acts like she don’t care

But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
That sends me down to the river
Though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
My baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride

Bruce Springsteen

1 thought on “Week 401: The River, by Bruce Springsteen

  1. Ah, yes. Good memories. My introduction to BS and The River was hearing Sherry Baby on the radio, in the first flat we lived in after we were married.
    Still love that song; and I think I keep hearing echoes of Drive All Night, and others from the album, in films and other media.

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