"Take Me to the River" is a 1974 song written by singer Al Green and guitarist Mabon "Teenie" Hodges. Hit versions were recorded by both Syl Johnson and Talking Heads. In 2004, Al Green's original version was ranked number 117 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
- 2 Charts
- 3 Other uses and awards
- 4 References
- 5 External links
The original version was recorded by Al Green as a track on his 1974 album, Al Green Explores Your Mind, produced by Willie Mitchell and featuring musicians Charles, Leroy and Mabon Hodges (The Hodges Brothers), drummer Howard Grimes, and the Memphis Horns. Green and Mabon Hodges wrote the song while staying in a rented house at Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, for three days in 1973 in order to come up with new material. According to Mitchell, Green wrote the words and Green and Hodges wrote the tune together. Green dedicated his performance on the record to "...Little Junior Parker, a cousin of mine, he's gone on but we'd like to carry on in his name.." According to one writer, "Green's song squares the singer's early religious convictions with more earthly interests", but when the singer became a pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in 1976, he dropped the song from his repertoire.
The record company, Hi Records, did not release Green's track as a single, but instead passed the song to his labelmate, Syl Johnson. Johnson's recording of the song, featuring most of the same musicians as on Green's version but with additional harmonica and a grittier vocal performance, reached #48 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1975, and #7 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart.
In 1976, Foghat made the first recording of the song by a rock band, on their album Night Shift. Two years later, it was recorded separately by Levon Helm and Bryan Ferry on solo albums,and then by the band Talking Heads on their second album More Songs About Buildings and Food. Their version, recorded with co-producer Brian Eno in Nassau, Bahamas, was edited and released as a single, and reached # 26 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1979., as well as hitting the singles charts in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Thomas Ryan wrote of Talking Heads' version that it "broadsided the status quo by combining the best ingredients of conventional pop music and classic soul music, stirring them together, and then presenting the mix in the guise of punk rock." Singer David Byrne said that he was drawn to the song because it "combines teenage lust with baptism - not equates, you understand, but throws them in the same stew, at least. A potent blend." Live versions were included on Talking Heads' albums The Name of This Band is Talking Heads and Stop Making Sense.
"Take Me to the River" has also been covered by several other performers including Levon Helm, Diane Schuur, Tina Turner, The Blue Ox Babes, Annie Lennox, Toni Childs, Max on the Rox,Dave Matthews Band, Canned Heat, The Dresden Soul Symphony, Grateful Dead, Delbert McClinton, Maná, The Commitments, Gov't Mule, Guy Sebastian, Phish, The Gizmos, Element Of Crime, Alabama 3, Claudja Barry, Tom Jones and Eva Cassidy. Bruce Springsteen has used the chorus during live performances of the epic Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.
In 2000, the tune was used in the popular animatronic singing toy "Big Mouth Billy Bass". The recording was arranged and produced for the toy's manufacturers, Gemmy Industries, by Al Thomas of Designer Music. According to Teenie Hodges, he made more money in royalties from that version than from any previous versions.
|US BillboardHot 100||48|
|US BillboardHot Soul Singles||7|
|Australian Singles Chart||26|
|Canadian Singles Chart||34|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||20|
|US BillboardHot 100||26|
Al Green also used the title Take Me to the River for his autobiography, published in 2000.
In 2004, Green's original recording was ranked number 117 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. The song was used as the title track of the award-winning 2008 compilation album Take Me to the River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977.
Appeared in the movie Blood In Blood Out.