The Readers’ Top 10 River Songs

The readers of Cool Green Science and fans of The Nature Conservancy on Facebook responded to my Top 10 River Songs post with a flood of comments. Between the blog and Facebook (and a handful of emails), more than 140 people offered their suggestions for their favorite river songs.

Of the 257 songs in the comments there were 144 unique song suggestions, ranging from those with the darkest of themes (e.g., “On the Banks of the Ohio”) to one that features furry otter puppets and John Denver gently singing the lullaby-like “When the River Meets the Sea” (from Emmet Otter’s “Jug Band Christmas”). The songs spanned genres from oldies to punk, folk, country, blues, and even 80’s pop (who can forget Duran Duran’s “Rio?”).

The artists with the most suggested songs were Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and the Grateful Dead, with three songs apiece. Culled and quantified from all the responses, the readers’ top 10 songs are below (number of votes in parentheses):

1. (tie) “River,” Joni Mitchell (10)

1. (tie) “Moon River,” various artists (10)

3. (tie) “Down by the River,” Neil Young (9)

3.  (tie) “Take Me to the River,” mostly Talking Heads but also Al Green (9)

5.  “Black Water,” Doobie Brothers (8)

6. (tie) “Old Man River,” Paul Robeson (7)

6. (tie) “Big River,” Johnny Cash (7)

8. “Green River,” Creedence Clearwater Revival (6)

9. “River Man,” Nick Drake (5)

10. (tie) “Cry Me a River,” various, including Ella Fitzgerald (4)

10. (tie) “Proud Mary,” Creedence Clearwater Revival (4)

10. (tie) “Watching the River Flow,” Bob Dylan (4)

10. (tie) “Down to the River to Pray,” Alison Krauss (4)

In one of the comments, my friend Pete chided that, “you haven’t hit the refresh button on your music archive since pre-iTunes days when wife, kids and work were but a misty dream…”  Fellow Cool Green Science blogger Clay Carrington posted a top 10 of lesser-known songs about water to provide a counterweight to the original list, which was populated by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young. And one contributor felt that the readers’ suggestions were also too “mainstream” (get it?).

Good points…although, in my defense I did include fairly recent, and relatively unknown, songs by Emmanuelle Jal and the Tragically Hip. And in the readers’ defense, for every top-40 standard (e.g., the Doobies), there was an obscure gem like Sun Kil Moon’s “Carry Me Ohio.” In addition to Clay’s list, some of my favorite “alt-river” suggestions include “Texas River Song” (Townes Van Zandt), “Bottom of the River” (Adam Arcurgi), “TVA” (Drive-By Truckers), and “Where I Go” (Natalie Merchant).

(Image: Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Washington, DC. Credit: randomduck/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)

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