Deep River

Album: Mississippi Mile (2011)

Songfacts®:

  • Devastating floods swept through Nashville in May 2010, resulting in a number of deaths and widespread property damage. The tragedy inspired this track from John Oates third solo album, Mississippi Mile in which he indulged his love for Delta blues and roots music. He explained how the song came about in an interview with The Boot: "It happened by accident, because I wanted to record 'Deep River Blues' by Doc Watson," he said. "That was always one of my favorite songs. It's a classic, and everyone knows it. We started playing it in the studio, and it felt like a really mediocre version of the song. I figured why bother, and it bummed me out because I wanted to do that song.

    Then, somebody started playing this swampy, New Orleans groove," Oates continued. "We started using the chords of 'Deep River Blues,' but stretching them out to the new groove. As we did that, I started to scat nonsense words with a different melody, but with the same feel. We ended up cutting this track that was real vibey and real cool, but there was no song because I was just singing nonsense words. [My co-producer] Mike Henderson told me I should go write some actual words for the song. This was in May, so the flood was still on people's minds. I just thought 'Deep River Blues' and 'Deep River' and the flood. I went back [home] to Colorado and wrote some lyrics and formulated the melody a little better in my head based on the scats that I was doing. It was all kind of a happy accident."

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