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The River Of Dreams by Billy Joel

Album: River Of DreamsReleased: 1993Charted:
  • Billy Joel gets a lot of song ideas in his dreams, and often struggles to remember them when he wakes up. For this song, however, he woke up with the song in his head, but tried NOT to write it. He explained on The Howard Stern Show in 2010: "I thought, Who the hell am I to try to pull off this gospel song, so I took a shower to wash this song away. I sang it in the shower and knew I had to do it."

    In Joel's dream, he was "walking in his sleep," which inspired that lyric.
  • Joel has said that the phrase "River of Dreams" is a play on the phrase "Stream of Consciousness."
  • This is a very spiritual song where Joel, who identifies himself as an atheist, includes some biblical imagery, including the line, "Through the valley of fear," which is a reference to Psalm 23:4 - "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Joel also says that the river is a religious image, as "there's baptizing in a river and you have to cross the river - people are getting dunked in the river and there's rivers of blood."
  • The cover of the River Of Dreams album was painted by supermodel Christie Brinkley, who was Joel's second wife. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Tony - Waukesha, WI
  • Danny Kortchmar co-produced this song with Joe Nicolo, who was also the engineer. In the '70s, Kortchmar toured and recorded with James Taylor, and also played on popular albums by Jackson Browne, David Crosby/Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt and many others. Some of his other production credits include the albums Blaze of Glory by Jon Bon Jovi and End Of The Innocence by Don Henley. In our interview with Kortchmar, he talked about his production philosophy, which suited the introspective nature of this track:

    "Get the most out of the artists you're working for. And get something that's true to them and that represents them and is also catchy and is going to attract people - attract ears. So it's really just a matter of being true to the artist's original vision of himself, because I'm not one of these people that wants to be a svengali and wants to change somebody into something else."
  • Joel performed this song at the Grammy Awards ceremony in 1994, where it was up for Record of the Year (it lost to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You"). Joel, backed by a large gospel choir on a set designed to look like a church, used the false ending about two-and-a-half minutes into the song as an opportunity to make a point: instead of waiting a beat and continuing the song, he stopped cold, looked at his watch and said, "Valuable advertising time going by... dollars." Joel later said that he was protesting because producers cut off Frank Sinatra's acceptance speech earlier in the telecast when Sinatra was given a Legend Award.
  • The video was directed by Andy Morahan, who also did Joel's clip for "The Downeaster Alexa." It was shot in Connecticut; the bridge scenes were done at the Providence & Worcester railroad bridge in Middletown, which crosses the Connecticut River. Joel's daughter, Alexa Ray, and wife, Christie Brinkley, appear in the video along the riverbank with Brinkley painting the album cover.
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Comments: 23

On August 30th 1993, 'The Late Show' with David Letterman premiered on the CBS Television network...
The show's first musical guest was Billy Joel and he performed one song, "No Man's Land"...
At the time his "The River of Dreams" was at #11 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, and on October 10th, 1993 it would peak at #3 {for 1 week}...
"No Man's Land" wasn't released as a single in the U.S.A., but in the United Kingdom it would reach #50 on the Singles chart.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I do not believe in atheists. Therefore, atheists do not exist.Esskayess - Dallas, Tx
The ending lyrics "Gloria..." are also part of a song called "Gloria" by The Cadillacs. Maybe Manhattan Transfer did a cover, or vice versa. I have to research that. I always wondered about what he says there, now it seems obvious he's singing the same part from this song. Check it out on this page: http://www.uulyrics.com/music/the-cadillacs/song-gloria/John - Monvtille, Nj
Bob Rivers sings about what else happens in the middle of the night in "River of Pee." Listen to it at http://bobrivers.com/#v8572Steven - Sunnyvale, Ca
In response to April from Baltimore about "Gloria...it's not Cherie" very faintly sung near the end of this song.

These are the lyrics and melody of a Manhattan Transfer song called "Gloria".

I'm not sure why Billy added it to the end of the song. Perhaps he's just tipping his hat to one of the acts from NYC that he likes?
Joe - Toronto, On
One of the most intense and great song written by Billy Joël shaking you up and down, this song makes me crying whenever i hear it : it was one of my mum's favorite song, we played it at her funerals...Newman - Compi├Ęgne, France
One of the most intense and great song written by Billy Joël shaking you up and down, this song makes me crying whenever i hear it : it was one of my mum's favorite song, we played it at her funerals...Newman - Compi├Ęgne, France
I too have heard the chanting and it always made me wonder what they were saying. Also at the end it sound like he's saying "Gloria" and then "It's not Cheri..." I know that cannot be right but I have no clue what he's really saying..April - Baltimore, Md
This song is indeed about much more than walking in his sleep. I saw an interview on TV once where he was talking about it. I dont remember it all, but he said it was about a spiritual journey seeking the meaning of life and how it happens in ones unconcious mind. It's about faith, searching for something for a great meaning to life, searching for something greater etc.Jason - Alexandria, Va
What makes me believe this is a reflective look at Billy's faith is how it is placed on the album. It immediately follows "Goodnight My Angel" which is his answer to his daughter's question about where do we go when we die. And it is right before "2000 Years" which talks about a new way of life and concludes with the line "It's been a long time but I'm finally with you after 2000 years." Of course 2000 years ago is when Christ was born. May be just a coincidence but the the lyrics together form quite a message of searchingJohn - Houston, Tx
I hear it too, Ross. It sounds like a children's choir chanting three words, then played very softly, but I too cannot make them out.Dale - Santa Fe, Nm
When Joel is in concert, he teases the audience during the brief "false ending" towards the end on the song. He'll get up, take a sip of water, pretend to talk to band members and even wink at the audience before resuming the song. Sometimes this can last for up to a minute!Ken - Louisville, Ky
I don't have any facts to back me up, but seriouslly listen to this song and you'll agree with me 100%.


This song is so much deeper than people percieve.

I think this is one of the most serious and deep-rooted songs he's EVER done.

He's obviouslly finding faith, God, the meaning of life, or spirituality.


*Through the jungle of doubt, mountains of faith, valley of fear, and desert of truth... to a river so deep.*

"I've been searching for something, something sacred I lost, but the river is wide, and it's too hard to cross."

"I've been searching for something, something so undefined, that it can only be seen by the eyes of the blind."

"Even so I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore, I try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find what I've been looking for"

"I've been searching for something, taken out of my soul, Something I would never lose, something somebody stole"

"I'm not sure about a life after this,
God knows I've never been a spiritual man,
Baptized by the fire I wade into the river that is runnin' to the promised land"

"We all end in the ocean
we all start in the streams
We're all carried along
by the river of dreams

In the middle of the night..."

Come on!
Shannon - Hamilton, Oh
I LOVE this song...great message, and it's simply a beautiful song all around!Tracy - ----------------, Ct
Yeah if you play this song backwards there is a Satanic Message. Here's what it says :

Barney is Satan....Barney is Satan ....His song made us suffer....the children love him....Death to Barney
Mike - Hueytown , Al
I have listened to this song on Joel's album "The Essential Billy Joel," and I have noticed something rather strange. Near the end of the song in this album there is a repetitive chant that is very soft and can barely be heard. Is it a message revealed when the song is played backwards or slowly?
Anyone know what I am talking about?
Ross - Westfield, Nj
Bill is a great pianist and artist, one of the best Billy!Matthew - East Brunswick, Nj
Joel has stated in a television interview that he had no intention to actually write this song (because it was too Gospel like, and Joel wasn't Gospel...but who can really define him as any Genre) but the song stuck in his head so bad that he just had to do it... thanks BJ!Dave - Pittsburgh, Pa
i dont think this song is about walking in his sleep. its about searching for the meaning of life.Abi - Toronto, Canada
The 2000 Millenium Concert Live version of this is a BEAST. Great (best track on the CD) and gets you really pumped up when his goes into the "NA, NA, NA etc.).Apb - Farmington, Ct
A NY radio DJ (His first name is Scott, I'm not sure about his last name, Brennan, perhaps) heard a premiere of this song on radio while being in England. He recorded the track on his portable recorder, brought the tape back home and played on his show. The other stations called Sony Music, thinking Scott was given the promo copy before the others. Sony music then unlocked the storages and released the single 2 weeks before they originally planned to do it.Vladimir - Novi Sad, Serbia
The title of the song is only mentioned briefly towards the end. Joel himself refers to it as "In The Middle Of The Night."Ken - Louisville, Ky
Just great. It has a whimsical sort of retro appeal, but keeps the Billy Joel style we all love.John - Millersville, Md
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