If you and your mule
Were stuck in the desert, you'd
Want some water too.
One of the great country-and-western songs, "Cool Water" was written by Bob Nolan in 1936. Bob Dylan and the Band recorded it during their Basement Tapes sessions, and it made its commercial debut in 2014. I know the song because of the version that Marty Robbins did on the album "Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs." There are many other versions, including by Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Cash, the Replacements, Burl Ives, Frankie Laine, Odetta and, improbably enough, the Muppets. I also love the passing reference to this song in "Old Dirt Road" by Harry Nilsson and John Lennon on Lennon's "Walls and Bridges" album.
The story is of a man and his mule named Dan, stuck in the desert, and when you pay attention to the lyrics, it becomes a terrifying, existential wasteland of a song:
All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water, Cool water. Old Dan and I with throats burned dry and souls that cry for water, Cool water. The night are cool and I'm a fool each stars a pool of water, Cool water. But with the dawn I'll wake and yawn and carry on to water, Cool water. (Chorus) Keep a movin' Dan, don't you listen to him Dan, he's a devil not a man and he spreads the burnin' sand with water. Dan can't you see that big green tree where the waters runnin' free and it's waiting there for me and you. Water, cool water. The shadows sway and seem to say tonight we pray for water, Cool water. And way up there He'll hear our prayer and show us where there's water, Cool Water. Dan's feet are sore he's yearning for just one thing more than water, Cool water. Like me, I guess, he'd like to rest where there's no quest for water, Cool water.