Big River Lyrics

Johnny Cash #4 song in 1958

Big River Lyrics was written by Johnny Cash in 1958 and according to Rosanne Cash, his daughter, this is one of the most eloquent pieces of American poetry ever written.

Big River was released as a single by Sun Records from the album "Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous" and went as high as #4 on the Billboard country music charts.

The song remained on the charts for 14 weeks.

There was a verse omitted from the original recording that was later performed during Johnny's live performances.

Big River Lyrics story - by Rosanne Cash.

I think my dad’s ‘Big River’ is one of the most eloquent pieces of American poetry ever written. It is so layered and cinematic.

It’s a narrative that starts at the top of the Mississippi River, in St Paul, Minnesota, and ends in New Orleans. It was written about a time when travel was still full of surprises; when it was an exotic trip to go from St Paul to Memphis or New Orleans. He uses alliteration in a thrilling way.

The first line of the last verse always gives me a thrill. It is positively Shakespearean. I like knowing my dad was so moved by the river, the South, the Delta and the music that arose from that area.

It inspires me he had such an intuitive and refined sense of narrative and language, that he created a cinematic landscape, a testosterone-fueled chase of a woman down the river, and that he wrote such a driving back beat to hold it together.

This is a song that could never be written today, and so it is also a piece of American history and part of the legacy of my family and my country.


Please enjoy one of my favorite Sun recordings by Johnny Cash as he performs Big River Lyrics with The Highwaymen.

Big River Lyrics
Written by: Johnny Cash
Performed Live by the Highwaymen:
Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson & Kris Kristofferson

Nelson:
I taught the weepin' willow how to cry, cry, cry
Kristofferson:
And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky
Jennings:
And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you, big river
Cash:
And I'm gonna sit right here until I die

Nelson:
I met her accidentally in St. Paul, Minnesota
And it tore me up every time I heard her drawl, southern drawl
And I heard my dream, Went back downstream, cavortin' in Davenport
And I followed you, big river, when she called

Kristofferson:
Oh, she took me to St. Louie later on, down the river
Freighter said, "She's been here, but she's gone, boy, she's gone."
And I found her trail in Memphis, but she just walked up the club
Raised a few eyebrows and went on down alone

Jennings:
Well, I pulled into Natches next day down river
But there wasn't much there to make the rounders stay very long
When I left it was rainin' so nobody saw me cry
Big river, why she doin' me this way?

Cash:
Now, won't you batter down by Baton Rouge, River Queen, roll it on
Take that woman on down to New Orleans, New Orleans
Go on, I've had enough, dump my blues down in the gulf
She loves you, big river, more than me

Nelson:I taught the weepin' willow how to cry, cry, cry
Kristofferson:
And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky
Jennings:
And the tears I cried for that woman are gonna flood you, big river
Cash:
And I'm gonna sit right here until I die



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Danny, great going with your site. I will be visiting often.  I have all of my dad's LPs and several of my own, so your site is of special interest to me.

Roy Webber,
Salt Lake City, Utah 


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