This is the 40th short article in a weekly, yearlong series. Read around it here and watch the perform of previous songs here. A new post about a various song will certainly be posted each Monday throughout 2016. You deserve to listen to the songs in a Spotify playlist.

You are watching: Who wrote the song take me to the river

I have a memory of mine uncle Dennis “Barny” Barnidge telling me that every newsroom required at least one weirdo who wore Converse shoes and also liked talk Heads. It to be a throw-away, one-off heat in a bigger conversation, but now, i can’t psychic the context. We can have to be talking about me. Or we could have to be talking about Barny himself, as he loved talking Heads, wore Converse, and also spent many of his adult life in newsrooms, editing and writing sports stories.

We definitely did talk about Talking top a bit. Quickly after Barny joined Facebook, we chatted about the band. The news peg because that that particular conversation — not that we ever before needed one — was David Byrne’s birthday.

Lots o’ highpoints ~ above Sand In The Vaseline. For this reason many, in fact, that one of my faves, take it Me come The River, transforms out to be hardly an ext than a blip. … Wrestle this to the ground: best version of take Me come the River? Al Green? talk Heads? Annie Lennox? The better-than-you-expect movie version from The Commitments? anyone else? There’s a pretty great argument the Take Me come The River is just one of those songs that can’t it is in screwed up — though Wayne Newton has vowed to make a version that will adjust your mind around that.

Happy B-Day D.Byrne. Climb right into that huge (Birthday) Suit

What adhered to was a back-and-forth in which we shared some that our favourite cover songs, including the ones that us felt got to that spiritual status the being much better than the original.

Cancer take it him 4 years ago this month. He should have actually turned 65 yesterday. Barny was not sentimental in a mushy way, so ns won’t place on the platitudes other than to say the he to be a big reason why I visited Mizzou’s school of Journalism (as to be my sister Kerry).

Instead of rambling on about how he influenced me, I’ll pay tribute to him in a means I suspect he’d find much more palatable. For you, Barny, ns shall finally “wrestle this to the ground” and also determine the best version that “Take Me to The River.”

Now, I’ll admit to girlfriend lovely reader all what I had actually to recognize to him means back when. And also that’s that I only knew some of the versions that mentioned. However I eagerly looked them all up. And also found part others, too. And also in this research, I found that the song was released on Barny’s 23rd birthday. Not also shabby, eh?

Written through Al Green and also guitarist Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, “Take Me to The River” is perceived by some doubters as the start of Green’s transition from secular heart singer come gospel artist. Tape-recorded in 1974, “Take Me to The River” to be released two years before he was ordained a pastor of the complete Gospel Tabernacle. The song’s text vacillate in between sexual and religious imagery, summing up the tension in between what to be apparently his two greatest interest areas:

I don’t understand why i love her like I do every the alters you placed me through take it my money, my cigarettes i haven’t watched the worst of that yet I want to recognize that you’ll call me ns love to stay take me to the river, autumn me in the water take it me come the river, dive me in the water Washing me down, washing me down

I don’t understand why you treat me for this reason bad Think of all the points we could have had Love is an ocean that ns can’t forget mine sweet sixteen I would never regret

Green dedicated the tune to blues musician small Junior Parker, whom Green explained as “a cousin the mine, he’s gone on but we’d choose to kinda carry on in his name.” “Take Me come The River” showed up on Green’s 1974 album “Al green Explores her Mind,” yet was never ever released together a single.


But the didn’t matter, because it became a signature song for Green. Rolling stone eventually ranked the on a perform of the 500 best Songs of every Time.

A year ~ “Take Me come The River” to be released, his label, hello Records, exit a version by blues singer Syl Johnson. Johnson added a harmonica at the beginning and also had a little much more edge come his voice, however otherwise it sounded faithful come Green’s version, which provides sense given it was had actually the exact same producer and most of the exact same musicians. Johnson’s “Take Me come The River” fight Number 48 top top the us Billboard warm 100, and Number 7 ~ above the U.S. Billboard R&B chart.


While Johnson’s version was a fine cover, it was Foghat’s 1976 variation that was the an initial re-tooling that the song. Foghat seemed like a great candidate to it is in the band to do “Take Me to The River” a rock song: despite English, Foghat was inspired by the blues and had one affinity because that slide guitar. The amped-up cover showed up on Foghat’s 6th album, “Night Shift.” when Dave Peverett sang those lyrics, he sang it favor a rocker under for a great time, not favor Green, who was conflicted over the pull between earthly delights and also spiritual callings.


In 1978, “Take Me to The River” was spanned a three times, and by some pretty large names. In bespeak of copper to gold, we’ll begin with the bronze by Levon Helm.

Helm’s “Take Me to The River” showed up on his 1978 self-titled album, no to be puzzled with the self-titled album that came out in 1982, or 1977’s “Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars.” Helm’s voice, an especially his accent, to be well-suited for country, and also that’s what stood out on this version. Instrumentally, the song didn’t substantially differ from what green or Johnson did. That didn’t have Johnson’s harmonica flourishes, but Helm’s horns to be pretty sweet.


The silver for 1978 consists of “Take Me come The River” goes come Bryan Ferry’s version, indigenous his album “The Bride Stripped Bare.” The instrumentation was second to his vocal style, however the first few times ns listened to it, i was grounding on the weird means he sounds he made. I couldn’t aid but wonder how he sounded prefer that and I to be trying to photo what his face would look prefer when creating those sounds. Were his lips pursed? had actually he just sucked ~ above a lemon?


But the gold for 1978 versions of “Take Me come The River” go to talk Heads’ cover, i beg your pardon was created by Ferry’s previous Roxy Music bandmate Brian Eno and also appeared ~ above “More Songs around Buildings and also Food.” just listen.


Up until this version, artists had actually sung the song at about the very same tempo together Green, and until Ferry, they had pronounced the indigenous similarly. Yet Talking heads slowed the track down, permitting David Byrne to possibility to include his David Byrne impact to virtually every word. Most notable was the word “river.” In the previously versions, Green, Johnson, Peverett, Helm, and Ferry had actually all sung “river” together though it were one, regular word. Byrne made it two — “riiii-verr” — to sing it together if he had actually hiccuped in the middle. His vocal stylings combine perfectly well through Tina Weymouth’s funky base line. A new standard-bearer had emerged. Talk Heads’ “Take Me come The River” reached 26 ~ above the Billboard hot 100, and also charted in brand-new Zealand, Australia, and also Canada.

That so numerous versions to be released the year was not lost on Byrne. In the liner note of “Once in a Lifetime: The best of talk Heads,” that wrote:

“Coincidence or conspiracy? There to be at least 4 cover execution of this tune out in ~ the same time: Foghat, Bryan Ferry, Levon Helm, and us. An ext money for mr Green’s complete gospel tabernacle church, i suppose. A tune that combine teenage lust through baptism. Not equates, you understand, however throws them in the same stew, in ~ least. A potent blend.”

Talking heads performed a much faster version that the tune in the 1984 concert film, “Stop do Sense,” directed by Jonathan Demme. Parliament-Funkadelic alums Lynn Mabry and also keyboardist Bernie Worrell were in the backing band, which is prefer watching “The X-Files” and getting come see few of your favorite “Star Wars” characters. (Which, uh, would be awesome.) the Byrne sang “river” a small faster in this performance have to not walk unnoticed.


And, together Barny stated in the message above, the song appeared on the 1992 best hits compilation, “Sand In The Vaseline.” It’s practically identical to the variation from “More Songs about Buildings and also Food.”


Blues singer Delbert McClinton extended “Take Me come The River” for his 1980 album “The jealous Kind.” It to be a blues version just in the stylistic flourishes, since McClinton’s delivery, when paired v the exuberant piano and sax solos, offered the tune a joyous sound, almost like something you’d hear native The Blues Brothers.


Tina Turner released a covering of “Take Me to The River” together the B-side come the tune “Girls” in 1986. The backing track to be too lot for a track that featured together an icon: too countless samples, too lot synth, too lot drum machine. These points wouldn’t be deal-breaker, normally, yet these points overshadowed the voice of one of the finest singers the the record era. It was prefer James Brown’s “Living In America” in the the decidedly ’80s additions were as well overwhelming.


Blues/rock band Canned heat released a contempt slowed-down variation for the 1988 album, “Reheated.” contrasted to the various other versions, this variation felt restrained and also low-key, choose some girlfriend casually play in a jam session. It’s no as layered as the others, specifically when contrasted to Turner’s (!), yet that straight-forward, bare feel gave it some charm.


In the 1991 film adaptation the Roddy Doyle’s 1987 book, “The Commitments,” a bunch that white irish people type a spirit band referred to as The Commitments and also play iconic songs from the ’60s and ’70s. The lead singer to be Declan “Deco” Cuffe, play by ireland singer Andrew Strong. The Commitments perform “Take Me come The River” through a spirited sense of nostalgia: strong sang v a gravelly delivery balanced by the smooth voices of backup singers, The Commitmentettes. Andrea Corr, that The Corrs, play Sharon Rabbitte, the younger sister that the band’s manager. She siblings and also bandmates Caroline, Jim, and also Sharon also appeared in the film.


Annie Lennox’s second solo album, 1995’s “Medusa,” consisted completely of covers. She had actually some post-Eurythmics songs that were just as an excellent as the ingredient she had actually done v David Stewart, also if it sounded stylistically different. Yet compared to other countless of her various other solo work, her variation of “Take Me to The River” sounded choose it nearly could have actually been a Eurythmics track. Almost. It was around the same tempo as the version by talk Heads, consisting of the on purpose slow method she sang “riiii-verr.”


Danish a cappella team Vocal line comprises many singers – as in dozens – who sing stylized covers. The group’s 1996 album, “Step by Step,” featured a mashup cover of “Take Me come The River” and Peter Gabriel’s “Steam.” The men sang lines of “Steam” if the females sang “Take Me to The River.” the was only partially a cappella, because halfway through, a funky backing track kicked in, and also it was glorious.


Big Mouth Billy base was an animatronic to sing toy that was supposed to look choose a an installed game fish, however when his switch was pressed, that sang “Take Me to The River.” It was a popular Christmas gift in 2000. (I obtained one together a existing from the Barnidge family that year). “Take Me to The River” co-writer Teenie Hodges claimed that he made more money from huge Mouth Billy base than any song he worked on with Al Green.


The Dave Matthews band performed “Take Me come The River” with Al environment-friendly at Chicago’s Soldier ar in 2000. The clip of that appeared in the 2001 IMAX film “All Access.” It to be a hard albeit simple performance, though at the time, MTV report that few of the fans in attendance didn’t choose it. “I didn’t pay to watch Al Green, particularly not to watch him beat the same song twice,” claimed Jennifer Harris, who clearly won’t be invite to write for Pop society Experiment anytime soon.


In recent years, Tom Tom society (featuring talking Heads alums Weymouth and also Chris Frantz) has actually performed “Take Me to The River” in ~ live shows with guest vocalists. The execution sound comparable to the one by talk Heads because, well, these men were talking Heads.


English electropop duo Kaleida, making up vocalist Christina Wood and also keyboardist Cicely Goulder, exit a variation of “Take Me come The River” ~ above its 2015 EP, “Think.” Stylistically, it sound reminiscent that the execution by talking Heads or Lennox, together it to be at that very same tempo. However don’t take the comparisons come those versions to average that Kaleida’s cover was derivative. Wood’s voice was together sweet together it was haunting.


Per Barny’s invitation, we’ve wrestled this to the ground, or at the very least to ground level. And also despite some good versions…

…Talking heads will always win in mine book. I tell myself it’s because that variation stood apart from the predecessors, and also because David Byrne added his very own weirdness. And also that’s true. That’s every true.

But I’d be lying if I claimed that the an extremely message i quoted from mine uncle didn’t predisposition me toward among his (and now one that my) favourite bands. It’s since of Barny the I’m biased towards Steven Wright, Devo, and Converse shoes, and a fifty percent dozen various other things, so what’s one much more thing to add to the list?

But that’s one of the points I mentioned at the outset of Cover songs Uncovered: memories, nostalgia, and also emotional connection affect our music tastes as much as quality, and in this case, it appears that memory, nostalgia, and emotions have actually led me to a cover variation that is top quality in its own right.

As because that that previously mentioned Wayne Newton variation Barny referenced, well, I have still however to uncover it. Yet then again, Barny always understood sarcasm much better than me. He had actually to explain a couple of jokes come me, and much more than once.

I’ll keep trying to find that Wayne Newton version, though.

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