Throughout human history, rivers have been the lifeblood of our planet and entire civilizations, from the Egyptians along the Nile River to the massive Amazon river, which is the heartbeat of the Amazon rainforest.
Rivers can be calming and soothing. But they can also be a raging torrent of unbridled energy and force. This has made rivers an ideal metaphor for musicians to convey feelings and ideas. This list explores the best songs that feature rivers as a central theme.
“Moon River” By Andy Williams
Album: Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes
Genre: Traditional Pop
Andy Williams is an icon of the music industry with a career that spanned over 70 years. A superstar that recorded 43 albums and went on to sell over 45 million records worldwide. But one of his most memorable songs is this timeless classic.
It was first recorded for the Breakfast At Tiffany’s motion picture, this song went on to be a huge success for several artists, but this rendition by Andy Williams is by far the most iconic and memorable. A smooth, easy-listening masterpiece.
Similar Playlist: Songs About The Sea
“Cry Me A River” By Justin Timberlake
Genre: Pop / R&B
Speaking of music icons, Justin Timberlake is a megastar and among the world’s best-selling music artists. Originally part of the 90’s era boy band NSYNC, he went on to forge a dominant solo career with over 88 million records sold.
This song was from his first solo album and cemented his status as a viable solo star. It hit number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and reached the top 10 in several countries, making it a global hit. But it was just the start of what would end up being a legendary music career that is still going strong.
Similar Playlist: Water Songs
“Proud Mary” By Creedence Clearwater Revival
Album: Bayou Country
Genre: Southern Rock / Folk Rock
This song by Creedence Clearwater Revival is one of the most recognizable songs with the word river in the lyrics. Released as a single in 1969, it was one of the standout songs from their second album with an undeniable swamp rock vibe.
It was also a commercial success and sold 2 million copies in the United States, reaching number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. But it wasn’t just a hit in the US, with top 10 positions in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. It was also famously covered by Tina Turner and Ike in 1971.
Similar Playlist: Songs With Mountain In The Title
“Rivers” by Thomas Jack
Album: Single Release Only
Genre: Tropical House
This song by Australian DJ and record producer Thomas Jack is ideal for a summer road trip. It lures you in with an acoustic melody before launching into a smooth and catchy vocal performance that stays with you long after the song finishes.
The song has received 26 million views on YouTube but never reached the mainstream charts in the US. But it was popular in the Netherlands, Poland, Norway, and Sweden. An infectious and uplifting song that is worth a listen.
Similar Playlist: Songs With Trees In The Lyrics
“The River” by Delta Goodrem
Album: Wings Of The Wild
Let’s stay in the land down under with this fantastic song from superstar Delta Goodrem. By the time this single was released, she already had three successful albums in her catalog, and this fourth album ended up topping the Australian Albums charts.
You’ve been missing out if you’ve never heard of Delta Goodrem. She has a powerful and dynamic voice that will instantly draw you in, and this song is no exception with its engaging story detailing infidelity and murder.
Similar Playlist: Best Island Songs
“Rivers of Babylon” by Boney M
Album: Nightflight to Venus
Genre: Reggae / Eurodisco
No list of songs with rivers in the title would be complete without this legendary song by Boney M. While it might not have been an original song, the German-based disco band certainly elevated it to new heights.
It was a smash hit worldwide, with over 2 million copies sold in the UK alone. It also reached the number one position in Australia, Finland, Norway, and Ireland, to name a few. A sensational song from the 70s disco era.
Similar Playlist: Songs With Desert In The Lyrics
“River” by Bishop Briggs
Album: Church of Scars
Next on our list of songs with river in the title and lyrics is this outstanding song by British singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs. It’s a thumping and punchy piece infused with epic lyrical delivery.
The lyrics focus on a strained relationship, and there is an undeniable level of tension throughout this song. It went on to sell 2 million copies in the United States. It has also accumulated over 250 million views on YouTube.
“Many Rivers to Cross” by Jimmy Cliff
Album: Jimmy Cliff
Many Rivers to Cross is another superb song about rivers that has been covered by a long list of artists, including John Lennon, Cher, UB40, and Bryan Adams. But it all began with the original by Jimmy Cliff.
Jimmy wrote the song at the tender age of 21. Despite his young age, the lyrical composition and delivery display incredible depth and maturity. While some might prefer the cover versions from other artists, the original is still a must-listen.
“River” by Miley Cyrus
Album: Endless Summer Vacation
Miley Cyrus has a knack for reinventing herself. As she has matured, so has her sound. This release from her eighth studio album, Endless Summer Vacation, perfectly highlights this growth.
It packs plenty of energy and bravado and makes excellent use of the legendary Roland 303 for pulsating synths. Plus, Miley does a stellar job with her biting vocal style. With a slick black-and-white music video, it clocked up 15 million views in just two weeks. Pop has never sounded so good.
“Down by the River” by Milky Chance
I’m a massive fan of all music genres, but I especially like genres that don’t get much mainstream attention. This unique song from the German folk duo Milky Chance is the type of music that often flies under the radar.
It is literally about the river Fulda in Germany, and it flows and ebbs just like a river would. It was also featured in the FIFA 15 video game, earning the duo a legion of new fans and going on to hit over 100 million views on YouTube. A haunting, mesmerizing, and unique song about a river.
“River” by Leon Bridges
Album: Coming Home
Genre: Contemporary Soul
Soul music is alive and well and experiencing a resurgence thanks to fantastic songs like this one by Leon Bridges. With gospel elements, it has struck a chord with fans and is one of the standout songs from his debut album.
The album reached number 6 in the United States and was a top 10 album seller in the UK, Australia, and the Netherlands. It also picked up a nomination for Best R&B Album but lost out to Black Messiah by D’Angelo & The Vanguard.
“The River” by AURORA
Album: A Different Kind of Human (Step 2)
Genre: Electro Pop
Norwegian singer-songwriter and record producer AURORA delivers a stunning vocal performance in this song with a river as a central theme. Even more inspiring considering how young she is.
This song was the third single from her second studio album, and the album received positive reviews from critics and fans. With a unique style and a captivating voice, I’m sure she will continue to deliver outstanding music in the years to come.
“River” By Eminem ft. Ed Sheeran
I don’t think I could think of a more unlikely duo to perform together than Eminem and Ed Sheeran, but here we are! And to be honest, I’m glad they got together for this song from Eminem’s ninth studio album because the result is fantastic.
The song was a commercial success for the rapper and reached the number 1 position in the UK with over 1 million copies sold. It also climbed to number 11 on the US Billboard charts and was popular across Europe.
13 Bonus Songs About Rivers
“Dam That River” By Alice In Chains
“Down By The River” By Neil Young
“Following the River” by The Rolling Stones
“The River” by Good Charlotte ft. M. Shadows, Synyster Gates
“River Euphrates” by Pixies
“Harlem River” by Kevin Morby
“River Of Dreams” By Billy Joel
“I Am A River” By Foo Fighters
“River So Wide” by Phil Collins
“The River” By Bruce Springsteen
“Watching the River Flow” by Bob Dylan
“Whiskey River” by Willie Nelson
“Blue River” by Elvis Presley
Watch The Full Playlist
The full playlist with every song in this post can be watched via the video below or directly on our YouTube channel.