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Black Water


The Doobie Brothers

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Patrick Simmons, who is the group's guitarist, wrote this song and sang lead. It continued the Louisiana-swamp rock feel of earlier Doobie Brothers songs like "Toulouse Street" and "Black Eyed Cajun Woman." This song is about the Mississippi River, with lyrics likely inspired by Mark Twain's books Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, which depicted life on the "Black Water."
This was released as the B-side of "Another Park, Another Sunday," which was written by Doobies lead singer Tom Johnston, who told us in 2009, "That's a story that could have happened back then, but never would ever ever happen now: Roanoke, Virginia picked that tune up and started playing it in heavy rotation, and somebody in Minneapolis who I guess knew somebody in Roanoke heard the song and decided to follow suit, and it ended up becoming our first #1 single. That was Pat's first single. And oddly enough, it was never looked at as a single by the record company.

I remember when I first heard it was #1, we were in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and we were just getting ready to go on stage, and then I guess Bruce (their manager Bruce Cohn) must have told us. I think we were already aware of the fact that it was getting airplay, but nobody was really paying a lot of attention. And then all of a sudden it became #1 and we were paying attention. I remember I went in and congratulated Pat backstage, and we've been playing it ever since." (Check out the full interview with Tom Johnston.)
The United States private security firm Blackwater was named for the dark water swamps of North Carolina, where the company is based. After criticism of the company's conduct during the Iraq War, they changed their name to "Xe" (pronounced "Z") in 2009.
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Comments (23):

I agree with you, EB from Orlando; it's just a great slice-of-life song. And I smoked dope myself back then (shame on me).
- Paul, Washington DC, DC
Ironically the only two #1's the Doobies had in the rocking 70s were neither penned nor sung by the major singer-songwriter, Tom Johnston:

a) BLACK WATER was sung by Pat Simmons
b) WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES was sung by Michael McDonald
- Tom, Detroit, MI
I was in high school when this hit. Walking down the hall one afternoon somebody started singing it. The entire hallway full of students broke out in the chorus, dancing and singing like there was no tomorrow. I will never forget that.
- coffeegod, Brandon, MS
I've been hearing this song since I was a kid and it's always been great.
- Krista, Carbondale, PA
This song is obviously nothing more than a allusion to Mark Twain's writing. Black water is a reference to the Mississippi River. It's always put me in mind of reading Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer while listening to Janis Joplin - especially her version of Summertime.

Great song.
- Michael, Pittsburgh, PA
I love the vocal arrangement at the end. The only other song I can think of where the vocals go back and forth like that is "Bohemian Rhapsody".
- Scott, Boston, MA
Shhesh...why does it always have to be about drugs or something? Read the entire lyrics. If you've ever visited anywhere in the south, particularly the Mississippi River, or read Mark Twain, or went out dancing on a lovely southern evening, it's just a nice, groovy song about that!
- EB, Orlando Metro, FL
This song was popular when I was 13 and read the novel "Gone With The Wind" for the first (not the last) time. The sounds of this memorable song really added dimention to my enjoyment of the book.
John Martin, 46, TX
- john, Fort Worth, TX
The song mentioned above as "Black Eyed Cajun Woman" is actually "Dark Eyed Cajun Woman" and it's on The Captain and Me album.
- Buck, Monroe, LA
I also would love to get the VIOLIN/FIDDLE sheet music or tab for for Blackwater by the Doobie Brothers. Does anyone have it or know where I can get it? Thanks.
- chris, Havertown, PA
this song is so dam good. Its definitely one of my favorites. I LOVE THE DOOBIE BROTHERS.
- Justin, Albany, NY
Wow this is one of the Doobies best. Probably the first I ever heard.
- Johnny, Los Angeles, CA
When I listen to the first verse of the song, I get the image of Mark Twain's character Huckleberry Finn and the black man Big Jim floating on a raft down the river.
- Patrick, Tallapoosa, GA
I'm not one to say songs are about drugs or alcohol, but this song just may be about either or both. I was unaware that bong water was refered to as black water. If you listen to the lyrics it can be taken two ways. "I don't care what happens because I'm stoned," or "I don't care what happens because I'm just chillin' by the Muddy Mississippi." I do, however, like the fact that they used the words Mississippi, Moon, and Shine in the same sentence...Mississippi Moonshine maybe??? Either way, it's a pretty cool song.
- Brandon, Peoria, IL
I heard this song awhile ago and didn't know who it was or what it was called and I found out a year later. Awesome song. Just relaxing by the river. Life doesn't get much better then that.
- Johnny, Los Angeles, CA
My aunt took me to see a Doobie's show in 1976 when I was 9 years old at the Providence Civic Center. As we walked into the venue, I can remember her telling me if someone passed me something, to just pass it on over to her. During the show, I passed many over to her and got a contact high myself....Great show, great band....great times!
- Mike, Warwick, RI
I am also looking hard for the VIOLIN sheet music for Black Water, by the Doobie Brothers. I need help!
- Brandon, Sudbury
I have been desparately seaching for the violin sheet music for this song. A friend has a rock n roll band and my daughter (10 years old plays violin - she has played since she was 5) and he wants her to play the violin part for this with his band.

PLEASE !!!! let me know if someone has the violin sheet music

- Patti, Hudson Valley, NY
black water may be a reference to bong water, however not in this song. black water is another name for the mississippi river.
- Arthur, North Kingstown, RI
The violin in this song is really cool. I took out my violin and tried to play a little bit with it. Although I wish I had the sheet music . . . Does anybody know anything?
- Alex, Belle Mead, NJ
Black water is just another name for the Mississippi River.
- Tim, Milestone, Canada
black water is a reference to bong water and as the doobie brothers were huge stoners, it makes sense
- Sam, Philadelphia, PA
This was orginally released as the "B" side of "Another Park, Another Sunday" in May 1974. That song made it to #32 (Billboard). The end of that year some stations started paying its "B" side - so "Black Water" was re-released in late 1974.
- Horace, western, MD
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