Over the last few months, I’ve been discovering/re-discovering Neil Young. I’ve been digging into albums, diving into deep cuts, realizing how much I enjoy so much of his music. Becoming an (albeit late) fan. Through my discovery/re-discovery Young-quest I’ve found so many great covers of his music. Today’s Song of the Day is one of those covers by two of my favorite singer-songwriter-musicians, Jill Sobule and John Doe, performing their cover of Neil’s “murder ballad”, “Down By the River”.
Their take on “Down By the River” appears on the cover-collaboration-tribute-for-charity album, Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity. This is a cool collection of covers that also features Tanya Donelly, Veruca Salt, Josie Cotton, The Watson Twins, Kristin Hersh, and others.
After a few days of anxiety and rough emotions, today represents a real first day for me. I know I’m 9 days late, but the New Year was bumpy, and I know that any day can be the first day – right? So, today is mine. My day to organize, set realistic goals, breathe a bit, and set myself on (hopefully) a path of better balance, love, (better) organization, home, family, budget, and self-care.
I’m only doing a Song of the Day today, as I spent most of today getting organized, setting goals, and breathing my decided first day in. Tomorrow will be back to other daily and weekly postings. Stay tuned.
“Down by the River” was written by Neil Young. It appeared on his 1969 (my birth year) album with Crazy Horse, called Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. In the liner notes to Young’s 1977 anthology album Decade, he said that he wrote “Down by the River”, along with “Cinnamon Girl” and “Cowgirl in the Sand”, while delirious in bed, in Topanga Canyon, with a 103 °F fever.
The song feels like a “murder ballad” to me. With the lyrics “I shot my baby – down by the river” you can see why I’d think that. Young cleared up any questions, though, in a 1970 interview with Fusion. He said:
“There’s no real murder in it. It’s about blowing your thing with a chick. See, now in the beginning, it’s ‘I’ll be on your side, you be on mine’. It could be anything. Then the chick thing comes in. Then at the end it’s a whole other thing. It’s a plea… a desperation cry.”
Jill Sobule and John Doe contributed their cover of “Down By the River” to the collaborative cover album, Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity.
The collection of Neil Young covers benefits Casting for Recovery, a national non-profit support and educational program for women who have or have had breast cancer. Jill and John’s covers is one of my favorites in the collection.
“Down By the River” by Jill Sobule and John Doe
from the album, Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity (2008)
Song of the Day
“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.
She could drag me over the rainbow,
send me away.
Down by the river,
I shot my baby.
Down by the river.”