Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Tune of the Week – “The River”

I just couldn’t get this song out of my head this week. I’m blaming Josh Ritter. He has been covering it during the encore at his live shows of late (you can download his version from a Berlin show a …

Thu, Oct 25, 2007, 07:16

   

I just couldn’t get this song out of my head this week.

I’m blaming Josh Ritter. He has been covering it during the encore at his live shows of late (you can download his version from a Berlin show a while back here) and it’s quite a turn, especially how he slows everything down, sings away from the microphone to still the room and lets that familiar story of a boy, a girl and a car go to work. The best songs in the world, as we have established before, are about cars and girls.

river.jpg

But the original, man, the original still takes my breath away. “The River” was the song which first hooked this impressionable kid from the badlands of Tipperary on Bruce Springsteen’s big music. I remember a school-pal giving me a tape of the album and I played it over and over again until the tape inevitably tore asunder. Then I bought my own copy and more than likely did the same thing to it.

Listening to “The River” now in the context of what we know came afterwards on those albums like “Nebraska”, “The Rising” and, of course, “Magic”, you can observe Springsteen teasing out possible narrative arcs for those characters. Above all else, Springsteen’s smalltown dreamers always tried to keep sight of hope and optimism even in the most trying of situations. After all, you’ve got to have hope.

While we wait for the technical wizards at ireland.com to work out a way to embed video on these here blogs, you can watch Bruce introducing “The River” as a new song at a show in 1980 here or a performance in Milan from “The Rising” tour in 2003 here. That show in Belfast in December just can’t come around quick enough.

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