"River Runs Red" as written by Martin Rotsey, Robert Hirst, James Moginie, Peter Garrett and Wayne Stevens....
So you cut all the tall trees down, you poisoned the sky and the sea
You've taken what's good from the ground
But you've left precious little for me
You remember the flood and the fall, we remember the light on the hill
There should be enough for us all, but the dollar is driving us still

River runs red, black rain falls, dust in my hand
River runs red, black rain falls, on my bleeding land

So we came and we conquered and found
Riches of commons and kings
Who strangled and wrestled the ground
But they never put back anything
Now I'm trapped like a dog in a cage
Wherever the truth is pursued
It must be the curse of the age
What's taken is never renewed

(Hirst/Moginie)


Lyrics submitted by themancky

"River Runs Red" as written by Martin Rotsey James Moginie

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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River Runs Red song meanings
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    General Commentfirst comment

    River Runs Red by Midnight Oil is a song with very strong messages towards Australia’s environmental issues. “River Runs Red” is used to describe nature (the river) and how humans are destroying it. The river running “red” is portraying blood, in this case the blood of nature, when people think of blood, it is usually linked to a death. The underlying meaning of the title is that nature and the environment is slowly but surely being killed by humans.

    “River Runs Red” is a very slow moving song, the fact that the introduction takes one minute twenty before the vocals to start is truly a clever way in which Peter Garrett, the song writer, has been able to create the mood for the song before any words have been sung. The mood created is one of lonesomeness, sorrow and even sadness. This also prompts listeners to visualise a clear and concise image of what he is singing about when the words do start.

    When the first stanza begins Peter gets straight to the point whilst still keeping the same mood, “So you cut all the tall trees down, you poisoned the sky and the sea
    you’ve taken what's good from the ground,” this gives listeners images of companies levelling forest’s, filling the air and sea with industrial waste and litter and digging huge holes in into the earth for mining purposes. It also explains that people are destroying nature as we know it. “But you’ve left precious little for me” is a very strong line meaning so many people seeking wealth have taken everything from the land, the children(tomorrow’s generation) have nothing to respect or admire about the environment. “You remember the flood and the fall, we remember the light on the hill” is again showing the comparison between the two generations. The Adults (today’s generation) remember spectacular sights and amazing highlights of nature and the children remember city lights and technology. “There should be enough for us all, but the dollar is driving us still” informs us if we were all to live within our means and take what we need from the environment, Australia would not be having these issues, but due to consumerism and greed, individuals are destroying the environment for their own personal gain. During the last line the singer’s attitude becomes slightly heated as he is angry with people wiping out the environment.

    Throughout the chorus the singer uses a similar attitude of that towards the end of the first stanza to promote certain feelings. In combination with the lyrics and higher tempo, feelings of darkness, sadness and evil are produced. “River runs red” is reinforcing the message behind the title and that we are destroying the environment. “Back rain falls” are the lyrics used to create the feelings of darkness, sadness and evil. The words “dust” and “bleeding land” in particular create an image of what the environment is turning into, which is unfertile, useless and nothing. Repetition is used to reinforce that what is been said in the chorus contains crucial points about what in happening to the Australian environment.


    The second stanza reverts back to a slow tempo and non aggressive attitude. This again changes the mood to lonesomeness and sorrow one. The environment is not exclusive to just those from a high social class, it caters for everyone. For this reason any person can take what they want from the environment. This is explained in the first lines of this stanza “So we came and we conquered and found, Riches of commons and kings.” They all “strangled and wrestled” with the terrain whether it be for logs, valuable ore or anything else. “But they never put back anything” which means the environment which they have benefited from is just left to pass away. The singer refers to himself as being “trapped like a dog in a cage… Wherever the truth is pursued,” the mood contributes to listeners understanding that because he is alone, no matter how hard he tries everyone is to wound up in getting rich and no one person listens to what he has to say. He feels that he is the only on who cares what is actually happening to the environment. “It must be the curse of the age what’s taken is never renewed.” Is a very powerful line to finish the song. The singer is saying the environment that is destroyed for its goods, is only left to die no effort is used in trying to preserve or restore it. He has tried to get the message out in the open with no success. The bottom line, There is no hope.

    All through “River Runs Red” the main focus is humans demolishing the environment. However the first stanza, second stanza and the chorus each spotlight a different subject. The first stanza focuses on the beauty of nature, today’s generation will always have memories, but tomorrow’s generation will have nothing and probably won’t even wonder about the possibilities which the natural world once beheld. The chorus targets on educating people what the environment is becoming, a land that is worthless, unfertile and one filled by darkness and evil. The second stanza is the most meaningful in the song; it influences people in an enormous way and makes them appreciate that if action is taken towards the problem, people will continue killing the environment until there is nothing left to kill.

    Swish number 2
    jlc01on October 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOne of the "greenest" songs on the album, IMHO. "Green" in the sense of environmentalism. "Green"++. Powerful song.
    agmlegoon October 02, 2007   Link

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