Today’s blog is by Laurie Loftin, who enjoys music by the water
June 1 begins National River Month. What a perfect time to visit a river, whether it be to float down on a kayak or to take an early morning walk along the bank. Bring a cooler, friends, and a playlist and you are ready to go. To help you along with the music, I share with you my favorite five river-themed songs.
#5. “Proving Ground,” Widespread Panic
OK, this one might be a stretch as a river song, but our favorite songs are often based on the memories we associate with a song. The self-titled Widespread Panic album came out the summer I graduated from college. I spent many an enjoyable day with friends by the rivers in Athens listening to the songs of this album. “Proving Ground” talks about discovering just how strong you are when you are in over your head. Jump in the middle of the river to find out just how tall you are.
River Fact: Those rivers I lounged beside and in were more than just a spot to relax and plan my future. The Middle and North Oconee Rivers are two of the three drinking water sources for Athens, GA.
#4. “The River,” Bruce Springsteen
I recently got involved in a conversation regarding the best Bruce Springsteen song ever. I fully backed “Rosalita,” the rebellious song about forbidden love. My friend is not always as upbeat as I, so he picked “The River.” Though I still throw my support behind Rosie, I can’t argue with his choice. “The River” doesn’t have the same burst of rock-and-roll energy, but the haunting harmonica and lyrics of struggle always lead you to the river, a symbol of dreams and hope for the young couple.
River Fact: In the song, the young couple marries and join as one. The Middle Oconee and North Oconee River join as one to form the Oconee River south of Athens, just before Oconee County.
#3. “Take Me to the River,” Talking Heads
Flowing back to the idea that memories make a song special, I turn to The Talking Heads, “Take Me to the River.” When my son was three, Schlotzsky’s was a go-to stop for lunch. This song came over the speakers and Dylan began to sing the chorus: “Take me to the river, drop me in the wa-wee”. Even though David Byrne clearly says “water,” my little guy could not pronounce “water” and loudly sang away with the carefree spirit of a child. As an added bonus, the restaurant had a Big Mouth Billy Bass on the wall. Dylan would push the button for the fish to sing along. The song still puts a smile on my face, whether it is Dylan, David, or Billy singing.
River Fact: The Middle Oconee and North Oconee headwaters, or starting point, are found in Hall County. The rivers flow 55-65 miles before joining to form the Oconee River.
#2. “Burn On,” Randy Newman
The song immortalized the Cuyahoga River in lyrical art. Randy Newman puts music to what was once a travesty. Almost a dozen times, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught on fire. Yes, water caught on fire. The city treated the waterway as if it was an industrial sewer pipe. The lowest life forms could not survive in the muck. A fire on the river in 1969 attracted national attention, later sparking the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Today, the Cuyahoga River is a source of pride. Cleveland coordinates clean up efforts that have resulted in a habitat for more than 60 species of fish, beavers, and birds.
River Fact: Every year, Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful organizes a river clean up for the Middle and North Oconee Rivers. In 2017, 405 Rivers Alive volunteers came out to help clean up 21 sites. They collected 3.1 tons of trash, 1 ton of recycling, 1,440 lbs of metal, and 150 tires during the event! Volunteer for the next Rivers Alive this fall.
#1. “Down the River,” Chris Knight
I believe the secret to an exceptional song is the ability to tell a complete story in about five minutes. “Down the River” accomplishes this with such beauty and subtle intensity, the final verse still gives me a case of goosebumps and earns my Number 1 spot for Best River Song. Close the door, turn off the phone ringer, and give the tale an uninterrupted listen. Then you will understand why I have no doubt Wilson’s cousin will forever be looking over his shoulder. Unfortunately for him, his alertness and caution cannot save him. He will never see Walter’s brother coming.
River Fact: In addition to supplying Athens with drinking water, the North Oconee and Middle Oconee Rivers are home to White Bass, Black Bass, Crappie, Bream, and Catfish. Maybe these were a few of the fish Walter caught before falling over the boat’s side.
I hope the songs inspire you to visit a local river. Not sure how to get to the river? Check out the following options.
Share photos of yourself visiting the river with us on Facebook or Instagram, #LilyAnnePhibian. Stay Blue, Athens!