River Man

I first came to know of the music of English singer-songwriter Nick Drake (1948-1974) through the BBC 6 Music program Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour. As I’ve referred to so many times before, the host is the lead singer of the English band, Elbow, and I often find post-worthy songs on the show.

The first Nick Drake song I heard on the program was “‘Cello Song,” and I published a post about it on March 29, 2020. More recently, Garvey played “River Man,” and I took note of it as it captured my attention the same way “‘Cello Song” did. Drake had depth and a soulful, perhaps haunting quality to his voice. It’s saddening to think that such a beautifully talented human died so early in life and almost 47 years ago.

Some of Drake’s lyrics are believed to have been influenced by his depression, and I feel there’s something in today’s selection that registers that. I read and hear a mix of self-awareness and melancholy in some lines: “Going to see the river man / Going to tell him all I can / About the ban / On feeling free…” It’s like Drake knew his state and couldn’t escape its bonds, but was determined to talk about it.

Betty came by on her way
Said she had a word to say
About things today
And fallen leaves.

Said she hadn’t heard the news
Hadn’t had the time to choose
A way to lose
But she believes.

Going to see the river man
Going to tell him all I can
About the plan
For lilac time.

If he tells me all he knows
About the way his river flows
And all night shows
In summertime.

Betty said she prayed today
For the sky to blow away
Or maybe stay
She wasn’t sure.

For when she thought of summer rain
Calling for her mind again
She lost the pain
And stayed for more.

Going to see the river man
Going to tell him all I can
About the ban
On feeling free.

If he tells me all he knows
About the way his river flows
I don’t suppose
It’s meant for me.

Oh, how they come and go
Oh, how they come and go.

(“River Man,” by Nick Drake. Unofficial lyrics are courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

“River Man” comes from Drake’s debut album, Five Leaves Left (1969).

Many prominent artists have named Drake as an influence on their music, including Beck, Kate Bush, the Black Crowes, Aimee Mann, and others.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from the Nick Drake YouTube topic channel:

2 thoughts on “River Man

  1. I only heard of Nick Drake for the first time a couple of weeks ago when his song “Pink Moon” came up in a playlist I was listening to. I immediately added the song to my playlist, though I knew nothing about the artist. After reading your post this morning I searched him on Spotify and spent an hour with his music. He was an amazing lyricist, with such a smooth, soulful voice. Sad that he had past so young, and I was amazed to read that it was 47 years ago. When I first heard “Pink Moon”, and right up until I read your post, I thought I was listening to new music. When I added the song to my playlist I had intended to check later to see what other music this incredible “new artist” had, but it had slipped my mind. I’m am so glad you shared this story and this song. Though his life was far too short he left us some beautiful music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very well said, Stephen. Beautiful music indeed. Check out the link to the post on “‘Cello Song” if you haven’t heard that one yet. Glad you discovered some more music you like. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

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