Take Me To The River

Album: More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)
Charted: 26
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Songfacts®:

  • Written by Al Green with his guitarist, Teenie Hodges, "Take Me To The River" first appeared on Green's 1974 album Al Green Explores Your Mind. It wasn't a hit, but attracted lots of cover versions, including by Syl Johnson in 1975, Foghat in 1976 and Bryan Ferry in 1978.

    Green and Johnson's versions were well known in R&B circles, but the Talking Heads brought it to the New Wave rock crowd and had the highest charting version of the song, reaching #26 in the US.
  • The song is about a baptism, a topic that jelled with Al Green, who later became an ordained minister. You wouldn't think a New York City-based art-rock band could pull off a gospel-tinged song by a Southern soul singer, but Talking Heads kept the spiritual feel of the song while putting their own spin on it - lead singer David Byrne doesn't sound like a traditional vocalist and could inhabit a character quite believably. His version of preaching on "Take Me To The River" foreshadowed a later Talking Heads hit, "Once In A Lifetime."
  • A key element that set Talking Heads' version of this song apart from the other covers is the tempo. They had been playing the song live for a while and had a good feel for it when they entered the studio, but when they recorded it, they played it as slowly as they could without losing the groove. This gave the song a seductive feel that set it apart.
  • A track from Talking Heads' second album, More Songs About Buildings And Food, "Take Me To The River" was their biggest hit to this point and the only single from the album. It earned them a spot on American Bandstand, getting them on national TV for the first time. The group didn't strive for hits and didn't rack up huge sales numbers, but they pushed musical boundaries throughout their career to end up with a very impressive discography that landed them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
  • Brian Eno, known for his work in Roxy Music, produced this track. Eno was very conceptual and artistic, which was a great fit for the Talking Heads, whose members David Byrne, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz all were art students. Eno ended up working on the next two Talking Heads albums and also collaborated with Byrne on the 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.
  • The More Songs About Buildings And Food album was one of the first recorded at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas. The studio was set up by Island Records owner Chris Blackwell, who cut the Talking Heads a deal because he needed to get some big acts in there to establish it. According to Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz, Blackwell ringed the perimeter of the grounds with chicken blood to keep evil spirits away. This voodoo worked: The band had a great experience at Compass Point and recorded their next two albums there.
  • This was the only cover song Talking Heads ever recorded. "David [Byrne] resented that it wasn't one of his songs that was the hit," Chris Frantz told Songfacts. "So he said, 'I'm not doing any more cover songs.'"

Comments: 3

  • Roy Sen from AustraliaI remember being initiated into the New Wave in 1981 after living in classical as a teenager by
    Once In Lifetime which I understood straight away, I wanted to be DB! Today I was listening to that compilation Once… and it sounded like EVERY TH song was built on the riffs and harmonic progressions of Take Me To The River. Just put it on loud clean the bathroom etc and let it show you.
  • Bill from UsGreat song, you new folks, start with the album version and then see Stop Making Sense and wait for it. Something to experience while you are still alive.
  • Bill from UsGreat song, you new folks, start with the album version and then see Stop Making Sense and wait for it. Something to experiance while you are still alive.
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