I followed my girl
Way down the Mississippi,
Crying all the way.
Where would we be, not to speak of Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash without rivers to skate away on? This Johnny Cash song made an appearance during the Basement Tapes sessions in 1967, and it's pretty simple:
- Guy meets a woman near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. He follows her south to the Quad Cities.
- She's not there. He follows her down the river to St. Louis.
- And to Memphis.
- And to Baton Rouge. And New Orleans... and so on...
And of course, the cycle of life being what it is, his inability to find her leads him to cry copious tears which of course keep the Mississippi full of water, allowing women like her to continue to elude guys like him.
Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry, And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky. And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you Big River. Then I'm gonna sit right here until I die. I met her accidentally in St. Paul (Minnesota). And it tore me up every time I heard her drawl, Southern drawl. Then I heard my dream was back Downstream cavortin' in Davenport, And I followed you, Big River, when you called. Then you took me to St. Louis later on (down the river). A freighter said she's been here but she's gone, boy, she's gone. I found her trail in Memphis, but she just walked up the block. She raised a few eyebrows and then she went on down alone. Now, won't you batter down by Baton Rouge, River Queen, roll it on. Take that woman on down to New Orleans, New Orleans. Go on, I've had enough; dump my blues down in the gulf. She loves you, Big River, more than me. Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry, cry, cry And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky. And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you Big River. Then I'm gonna sit right here until I die.
Here are Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan doing the song together...