"The River" is a song written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen, accompanied by the E Street Band. It was the title track of his fifth album, The River, and was a hit single in parts of Europe.
"The River"'s writing occurred after an earlier, one-record version of the album, tentatively called The Ties That Bind, had already been completed; following this new song, Springsteen penned others with a darker feel, delayed the album's release, and retitled it. The song itself was recorded at The Power Station in New York in July or August 1979.
"The River" makes use of a haunting harmonica part, and in some ways is a precursor to the style of his next album, Nebraska. The imagery of the chorus and the end of the song were inspired by lines from Hank Williams' 1950 hit, "Long Gone Lonesome Blues". The song's depiction of how economic difficulties are interlaced with local culture also presaged the 1980s popularity of heartland rock:
Writer Robert Hilburn deemed the song "a classic outline of someone who has to re-adjust his dreams quickly [, facing] life as it is, not a world of his imagination."
Throughout the song the river is viewed as a symbol for the dreams of the future. The...