MURDER IN SONG: DOWN BY THE RIVER-NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE (1969)

Is “Down by the River”, from Neil Young’s second album (and his first with Crazy Horse) Everybody Knows This is Nowhere a murder ballad? There is a murder; that much is true. Once again water plays a factor as the narrator of the song tells us “Down by the river/I shot my baby…dead,oh shot her dead”. What is it about bodies of water that lead us to acts of violence? Yet, before we truly classify “Down by the River” as a murder ballad let us hear from the man himself. Young has claimed “there’s no real murder in it. It’s about blowing your thing with a chick. It’s a plea, a desperate cry”. However, when introducing the song in New Orleans in 1984 he stated that song is about a man “who had a lot of trouble controlling himself” after catching his woman two-timing him and so he meets her, and shoots her down by the riverside.

Murder ballad or no (I say yes), “Down by the River” is one of the three songs, “Cinnamon Girl” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” being the other two, that he wrote while suffering from a 103º fever and which would be featured on his first true masterpiece (no, I am not forgetting After the Gold Rush) Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. I present to you Neil Young & Crazy Horse and Down by the River. Enjoy.

Be on my side,
I’ll be on your side, baby
There is no reason
for you to hide
It’s so hard for me
staying here all alone
When you could be
taking me for a ride.

Yeah, she could drag me
over the rainbow,
send me away

Down by the river
I shot my baby
Down by the river,
Dead, oh, shot her dead.

You take my hand,
I’ll take your hand
Together we may get away
This much madness
is too much sorrow
It’s impossible
to make it today.

Yeah, she could drag me
over the rainbow,
send me away

Down by the river
I shot my baby
Down by the river,
Dead, oh, shot her dead.

Be on my side,
I’ll be on your side
There is no reason
for you to hide
It’s so hard for me
staying here all alone
When you could be
taking me for a ride.

Yeah, she could drag me
over the rainbow,
and send me away

Down by the river
I shot my baby
Down by the river
Down by the river
I shot my baby
Down by the river.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “MURDER IN SONG: DOWN BY THE RIVER-NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE (1969)

  1. Great post. Can’t say I’m a fan of Neil Young but I’ll forever adore his Old Man song! This reminds me of Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue’s Where the Wild Roses Grow. That song is the perfect murder ballad.

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