"Tree by the River" as written by and Samuel Ervin Beam....
Mary Anne, do you remember
The tree by the river
When we were seventeen?

Dark canyon wall, the call and the answer
And the mare in the pasture
Pitch black and baring its teeth.

I recall the sun in our faces,
Stuck and leaning on braces,
And being strangers to change.

Radio and the bones we found frozen,
And all the thorns and the roses
Beneath your window pane.

Now I'm asleep in a car, I mean the world?
To a potty-mouth girl,
A pretty pair of blue-eyed birds.

Time isn't kind or unkind, you liked to say.
But I wonder to who
What it is you're saying today.

Now I'm asleep in a car, I mean the world
To a potty-mouth girl,
A pretty pair of blue-eyed birds.

Time isn't kind or unkind, you liked to say.
But I wonder to who
What it is you're saying today.

Mary Anne, do you remember
The tree by the river
When we were seventeen?

Dark canyon road, I was coy in the half-moon
Happy just to be with you,
And you were happy for me.


Lyrics submitted by letssailaway, edited by ahcanhearu

"Tree by the River" as written by Samuel Ervin Beam

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Tree by the River song meanings
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13 Comments

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  • +5
    General CommentMy favourite line is "Happy just to be with you, and you were happy for me." To me, it's just such a sad ending to the song, and really sets the tone. On the first listen, it's a glorious narrative of young love. With that one last line, it spins the notion on its head, telling of a tale that was so beautiful, yet ultimately a love unrequited. Why wouldn't Mary Anne be happy to be with "him" too? Why was she only happy "for" him?
    manikayon February 02, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI noticed all of the old memories with MaryAnn are linked with nature - fast-forward to nowadays and he's "asleep in a car". I picture him sitting at a traffic light in front of a modern day strip mall corporate hell. Sounds pretty crummy, but, he "means the world to...." So - here's my take: he's saying back then, with MaryAnn, everything was natural and primitive and wonderful. Nowadays, its different, but there are wonderful aspects to the season of life he's going through. He seems to confirm this with the lyric "Time isn't kind or unkind, you used to say....." Sort of like, these were different times, each with aspects that were great, even though much different. His line in Biting Your Tail "May you worship the time and its passing...." is a similar theme...Sorry to run on and on - I just love this guy's lyrics so darn much...
    msantoon September 01, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThanks for putting these up so quickly! I'd say it's definitely "potty-mouthed." Wonderful song, though I know better than to expect less :)
    wanderloveon December 21, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAs "noiamnotwhereibelong" stated, the surface meaning is very clear for this song... but the imagery and the beauty of the relationship the speaker & "Mary Anne" had just makes me reminisce on my first love. So much beauty there.

    Most of the song just mentions little things that only those two would know the real meaning behind. He mentions in an interview that the lyric "and all the thorns and the roses" is a reference to the good and the bad being there in one place.

    "Time isn't kind or unkind," you liked to say
    But I wonder to who
    And what it is you're saying today.

    ^ this is my favourite line, by far. Everyone has that one person they remember & wonder what they're up to. Such a beautiful song. In the same interview, Sam mentions that it took him almost 10 years to write this song because he wanted to avoid it being too "saccharine" or "sappy". I am so glad he put those moments into this song... it shows.
    jasugaron January 26, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt may be Stuck and leaning on -graces-. And again, your reaction time was amazing. Good song
    BlueRidgeMtnson December 23, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentgo to this website: daytrotter.com/dt/iron-and-wine-concert/… for some awesome acoustic versions of some new songs. the tree by the river is just lovely. everything you'd like sam beam to be.

    it's also most definitely "stuck and leaning on graces." also "parted mouth girl" and "but i wonder to who AND what it is you're saying today."
    rockisgroovyon January 12, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBeautiful. The surface meaning is clear, a past love he lost touch with. He wonders who she is today and who she's with. I almost cried when I saw he had recorded a Daytrotter session. My wish came true!
    noiamnotwhereibelongon January 13, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love "being strangers to change" as an expression for being young.

    what is "parted-mouth girl" supposed to mean? "potty-mouth" is not less cryptic for a non-native speaker as i am.
    Peliasenon January 23, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA very new take on the "we used to be lovers, now we're strangers" song genre. Or the "road not taken" tradition.

    What SB captures that no one else has is that bemusing set of feelings when you realize, as a parent, that your daughter will soon become one of those ethereal creatures that other kids will seek intimacy with, and that most seekers will fail at this, like he did "when we were seventeen" and Mary Anne was, awkwardly, "happy for me."

    It's a richly observed irony that in adolescence we expend so much of our soul for intimacy and rarely get it, but to a child you just about automatically "mean the world."
    ahcanhearuon October 17, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's "stuck and leaning on graces" it can be heard more clearly in the live acoustic version on YouTube.
    Reptile_brainon November 10, 2017   Link

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