The River
Bruce Springsteen Lyrics


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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 drive 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
Yeah, yeah

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-ide

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh




Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

Overall Meaning

The River by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band tells a story of a young couple from a working-class background living in a small valley. The singer, who is now looking back on his life, reminisces about his teenage years where he meets Mary at high school. They fall in love and drive out of the valley to a place where the fields are green. They go down to the river and dive in it. However, life changes when the singer gets Mary pregnant, and they end up getting married in a courthouse with no wedding day smiles, no flowers, and no wedding dress. They still go down to the river but not for pleasure as memories of their past come back to haunt them. Despite knowing the river is dry, they still go down there as it is a reminder of what once was, of their youth.


The River is a reflective song about the struggles of the working-class people, their dreams, and aspirations that don't come to fruition. The song focuses on the singer's disillusionment with the world and his resignation to his fate. The river symbolizes the hope, dreams, and aspirations that he once had, but now it is dry, reflecting the reality of his situation. The song is a classic example of Springsteen's ability to tell stories that are relatable, emotional, and thought-provoking, capturing the essence of the lives of ordinary people.


Line by Line Meaning

I come from down in the valley
I come from a working-class background


Where, mister, when you're young
It's a place where young people are raised in a certain way of life


They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Children are expected to follow in their fathers' footsteps


Me and Mary we met in high school
I met my future wife in high school


When she was just seventeen
She was only 17 years old at the time


We drive out of this valley
We left our hometown


Down to where the fields were green
To a place where there were more opportunities and a better life


We'd go down to the river
We used to spend time by the river


And into the river we'd dive
We used to swim in the river


Then I got Mary pregnant
I got my girlfriend pregnant


And man, that was all she wrote
That was the point of no return for us


And for my nineteenth birthday
On my 19th birthday


I got a union card and a wedding coat
I joined a union and got married


We went down to the courthouse
We got married at the courthouse


And the judge put it all to rest
The judge finalized our marriage


No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle
We didn't have a traditional wedding ceremony


No flowers, no wedding dress
We didn't have any decorations or special clothes


That night we went down to the river
After our marriage, we returned to the river


And into the river we'd dive
We swam in the river again


I got a job working construction
I found work as a construction worker


For the Johnstown Company
I worked for the Johnstown Company


But lately there ain't been much work
But there haven't been many job opportunities lately


On account of the economy
Because of the state of the economy


Now all them things that seemed so important
Things that used to be important don't matter anymore


Well mister they vanished right into the air
They disappeared


Now I just act like I don't remember
I try to forget about the past


Mary acts like she don't care
My wife acts as if she's not affected by our situation


But I remember us riding in my brother's car
I remember us driving around together


Her body tan and wet, down at the reservoir
I remember her body being tan and wet from swimming


At night on them banks I'd lie awake
I used to lie awake at night on the river banks


And pull her close just to feel each breath she'd take
I would hold her close to feel her breath


Now those memories come back to haunt me
Now those memories are painful to me


They haunt me like a curse
They torment me


Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Is a dream false if it doesn't become reality?


Or is it something worse
Or is there something more painful than a false dream?


That sends me down to the river
That draws me back to the river


Though I know the river is dry
Even though I know the river is no longer there


That sends me down to the river tonight
That draws me back to the memory of the river tonight


Down to the river
Back to the memory of the river


My baby and I
With my wife by my side


Oh, down to the river we ride-ide
Back to the memory of us riding down to the river




Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Written by: Bruce Springsteen

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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Most interesting comment from YouTube:

@gabbyhyman1246

+Boko Kotar
Saw him two nights in Los Angeles this week. The band is still amazing. To bring down the Sports Arena, he played the River front to back and then a massive encore including Wrecking Ball, Rosie, Jungleland. 3 hours and 45 minutes, plus crowd surfing. He had Clarence's son, and Danny's son and daughter join on stage during 10th Ave. Freezeout. Who else does this for an encore after playing for two hours:

Prove It All Night

My Love Will Not Let You Down

Badlands

Tougher Than the Rest

Because the Night

Jungleland

Thunder Road

Wrecking Ball

Born to Run

Dancing in the Dark

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

Tenth Avenue Freeze-out

Shout

Bobby Jean



All comments from YouTube:

@DrunklyRomantic

My English teacher in high school came into our class one morning, sat down, and played this entire album for us without saying a word. I'm eternally grateful.

@beverlycordova6596

Love this song

@PatriotaXBolsonaro

Drunkly Romantic Where are you from ?

@ashleykidd9122

Drunkly Romantic if I don’t make it playing music for a living, this is exactly what I will do for my hopeful career teaching an English class

@tigertiger1699

Drunkly Romantic
Man I had a teacher play us Simon n Garfunkel etc when we were like 11yrs.., we were ready n we understood... let us not underestimate our children 👍

@yangyang5792

OMG! I am a Chinese study in the US. 2009 I was in high school. One day my English teacher did the same thing. At that time I did not understand. But now I want to say thank you, my teacher.

185 More Replies...

@ryanbartlett672

I get the spine chills and tears in my eyes everytime I hear this song. Thanks, Bruce.

@BrentMFisher

The life of a 50 something man in a 7 minute masterpiece song from a 30 years young poet, artist and living legend. They don't make 'em this way anymore. I thank God every day this music is part of my life. Thank you Bruce Springsteen 🎤🎶~ 💘kimie

@wimvlieghe

so true👍

@vir8940

I always cry when I hear this song. There are no words to describe this masterpiece

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