"Down By The River" as written by and Albert/hazlewood Hammond....
Be on my side I'll be on your side, baby
There is no reason for you to hide,
This much madness is too much sorrow,
It's impossible to make it today,
Hey, hey, ooh-ooh

She could drag me over the rainbow,
Send me away.

Down by the river
I shot my baby
Down by the river,
Dead, shot her dead.

You take my hand, I'll take your hand,
Together we may get away.


Lyrics submitted by H-bomb

"Down by the River" as written by Albert/hazlewood Hammond

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Down By The River song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentHis baby is Heroin, which he is comparing to a lost love. In many cities the junkies would hang out by the river and shoot up. "SHOT HER DEAD" means he used up all of the Heroin, and to a junkie it's like killing a love. Neil Young has a few songs that are about drugs (The Needle and The Damage is Done and Sugar Moutain, so why would it be so strange that this is about drugs?


    "she could drag me
    over the rainbow,
    send me away
    Down by the river
    I shot my baby
    Down by the river,
    Dead, oh, shot her dead."
    timothyjonkingon January 23, 2012   Link
  • +3
    Song MeaningI think this song is all about a man who is getting over a love who has left him.
    When he shoot his baby it means he says goodbye to her (in his head) and the fact that he shoots her is a metaphor. It means that he is over her.
    In music it is(was) all about metaphors
    CrapMcCrampon February 22, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentYeah, clearly about the end of a relationship. I think heroin is overthinking it, but obviously there are metaphors of murder (and perhaps euthenasia) used.
    The song i prefer to associate with it is Running Dry, rather than Cinnamon Girl or Losing End

    This is possibly the best rock song ever written. I :ballsack: NY & Crazy Horse.
    azkmon June 17, 2009   Link
  • +2
    My OpinionI figured it was about a woman who the singer loved, but she tried to leave him, so in his 'madness and sorrow' he shot her, because he could not bear her leaving him. I hear Young wrote this song when he was ill and delirious...? Anyway, it's a beautiful song and I adore it!
    beckyofthehoodon July 02, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthough i could see how you could misinterpret this to be a heroin reference, your thinking way too hard. the song is clearly about a failed relationship in which the story teller tricks his ex-love into coming down to the river "be on my side, i'll be on your side, there is no reason for you to hide" after which he in fact "shot her dead" the song couldnt be any clearer. its the old "if i cant have you, nobody should" feeling you get when someone you love leaves you. and thats that.

    Also if you really like this song, you should check out the Buddy Miles version from the album "them changes" he breaks it down and puts the perfect feeling to the song.
    Jon112384on January 19, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI've read the lyrics over and over as you all have. I want to propose a hypothesis that may be true for many songs where we have difficulty finding the true meaning of the song (e.g. Hotel California). Neil is painting a picture, purposely keeping it vague, allowing the listener to conjure various images and plots. The song doesn't get old, b/c we're constantly analyzing it. Some artist may do that intentionally and the song may be more or less metaphorical, I don't know. His intent could have be to create a mood and the lyrics had to be cut up and incomplete. Key words and phrases may have been left out of the orginal poem or story that he created to fit the demands of the music/rhythm.

    My first impression was that this is literally about a disturbed man who committed murder. The stanzas are his thoughts before the murder, the chorus being the repetition of a confession to himself. For those interested in this particular interpretation, listen to Possum Kingdom by the Toadies and you will find a similar story being told.
    brownbd1on February 03, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI really don't think this song is about a horse or heroin. He wrote this song while passed out in bed with a bad fever. Amazing song.
    Poetic_Mystiqueon March 03, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI highly doubt this song is about heroin, as Neil himself said in the PBS American Masters series that he had never tried heroin - he only knew people who did. I think this song is just about a relationship, where shooting his bady down by the river is just a metaphor for breaking up. This would make sense, too, since the following song on the album, "Losing End (When You're On)", is about dealing with the loneliness after an ended relationship. But either way, it's a brilliant song.
    chillingoftheeveningon June 16, 2009   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningNew Orleans, Sep 27, 1984

    Neil Young introducing the song "Down By The River":


    I'd like to sing you a song about a guy who had a lot of trouble controlling himself. He let the dark side side come thru a little too bright.
    One afternoon he took a little stroll down thru a field and thru a forest, 'til he could hear the water running along there. And he met his woman down there. And he told her she'd been cheatin' on him one too many times. And he reached down in his pocket and he pulled a little revolver out. Said "honey I hate to do this but you pushed me too far".

    By the time he got back to town he knew he had to answer to somebody pretty quick. He went back to his house and he sat down on his front porch. About two hours later the sheriff's car pulled up out front. It started sinkin' in on him what he'd done. The sheriff walked up the sidewalk, he said "come with me son, I want to ask you a few questions".

    As he heard the jail door shut behind him he sat down on a little wooden bench. And he looked out of the door - thru those bars - at this kind of wimpy looking sheriff out there. He started getting mad again and he realized what he had done.

    There wasn't nothing he could do about it now though. He just sat down and put his head down and he started thinking to himself "I'm all by myself here, there's nobody on my side....."

    thrasherswheat.org/fot/…
    joemdkardaon July 15, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is about living in a van. Duh.
    AnalMagickon December 04, 2009   Link

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