Big River

Lyrics: Johnny Cash
Music: Johnny Cash

One of the songs Bob Weir sang most frequently with the Dead. He also sang it at least once with Kingfish. And more recently with Ratdog and Weir/Wasserman.

Although it was sung by Bob Weir almost always, there were some early exceptions. In its first appearance, on 31 December 1971, Bob Weir sang the first and third verses, but Jerry Garcia sang the second verse (though he got the words wrong!). Its next appearance was in a soundcheck on 16 May 1972 when Jerry Garcia sang all three verses. But when it started appearing regularly in setlists, from September 1972 onwards, Bob Weir sang all the verses from then on. (thanks to Mike Scheier for pointing this out)

Well I taught that weepin' willow how to cry, cry, cry
Taught the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky
Tears I cried for that woman gonna flood you, big river
I'm gonna sit right here until I die

Well I met her accidentally in St Paul, Minnesota
And it tore me up every time I heard her drawl that southern drawl
Then I heard my dream went back downstream cavorting in Davenport
And I followed you big river when you called


Well I followed her to St Louis later on down the river
A freighter says she's been here, but she's gone, boy, she's gone
Well I found her trail in Memphis but she just walked up the bluff
Raised a few eyebrows and then she went on down alone


Now won't you bat it down by Baton Rouge, river queen rolling on
Take that woman 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

When Johnny Cash performed the song in 1985 with The Highwaymen (Cash, Kris Krisofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson) a new verse was addded - not on the original Cash recording nor in Bob Weir's versions (thanks to Jon Krulish for pointing this out):
Well, I pulled into Natchez next day down river
But there wasn't much there to make the rounders stay very long
When I left it was raining so nobody saw me cry
Big river, why she doing me this way

Grateful Dead and Related Recordings
Other Related Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     2015 The Dead Session Town Mountain
     2017 Blackberry Smoke with Bob Weir: An Evening at TRI Blackberry Smoke

Further Information
For an online discussion of the lyrics to this song see the deadsongs.vue conference on The Well.
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For David Dodd's discussion of this song on see Greatest Stories Ever Told
For online chords and TAB see


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