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  • This song was inspired by a trip to Alaska, where Taylor went river rafting. The "boatman" is the guide - the person you trust with your life on such adventures.

    In a Songfacts interview with Taylor, he explained: "I had a guitar and it would have been morning, about 9 o'clock, a couple of cups of coffee in me. That's when I tend to do a lot of writing because that intersection of freshly rested neuron transmitters and caffeine tends to make it possible to write. And I just had a flow of lyrics.

    This often happens with me, where the lyrics will just swirl around and I have:

    Boatman, I am a river
    I am a mountain, to the sea
    Boatman, taker, and giver
    Can you deliver for me?
    And can I forever run free?

    These are rhetorical questions, but it makes for a good, singable chorus."
  • Alaska is a place where many feel the presence of a higher power, and while there is a spiritual element to the song, there was also a practical one. "I didn't write it sort of verklempt, looking up at the mountains," Taylor told Songfacts. "I was there and I was looking up at the mountains, but it was just what came out at the time. And if I'm gonna make a record, I'm gonna need to write a record. So, there's a combination of pragmatic and skillful that goes into this."
  • Livingston's famous brother, James, covered this song on his 1997 album, Hourglass. The two have shared the stage on many occasions, and sometimes they share songs as well.
  • Taylor wrote this with him wife at the time, Maggie.
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