Harlem River Blues Lyrics

Lord, I'm goin' uptown to the Harlem River to drown
Dirty water gonna cover me over and I'm not gonna make a sound

I'm on a roll, mama, I gotta go, gotta get there while I still can
Troubled days are behind me now and I know they're gonna let me in
When you see me walkin' up the FDR, just a-singin' and a-clappin' my hands
Tell my mama I love her, tell my father I tried, give my money to my baby to spend

'Cause Lord, I'm goin' uptown to the Harlem River to drown
Dirty water gonna cover me over and I'm not gonna make a sound

Good times come and they go, even a good man'll break
He'll let his troubles bury him whole even though he knows what's at stake
So I'm taking no chances, carrying over while I'm still good in His grace
Sayin' I'm no fool, mama, I know the difference between tempting and choosing my fate

'Cause Lord, I'm goin' uptown to the Harlem River to drown
Dirty water gonna cover me over and I'm not gonna make a sound

Lord, I'm goin' uptown to the Harlem River to drown
Dirty water gonna cover me over and I'm not gonna make a sound

Lord, I'm goin' uptown to the Harlem River to drown
Dirty water gonna cover me over and I'm not gonna make a sound
Song Info
Submitted by
Submitted on
Aug 03, 2010
6 Meanings
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Also, it's "walking up the FDR", not "up the empty yard". 'The FDR' is Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive, the parkway that runs alonside the Harlem River.

Lyric Correction
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It's "...give my money to my baby to spend", not just "give my money to my baby". Good work otherwise.

Lyric Correction
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cannot stop listening to it! i think this line explains it all: "I know the difference between tempting and choosing my fate." drown yourself while you're still young, basically.

@fireplace Yep. I love that line!!

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I really like this song, the concept seems to be very original. The second verse gives away the meaning. Its obviously about suicide but, it seems as though things are going well for him (in the song), but he knows “good times come and they go”, and he is afraid of the hard times because in hard times “even a good man’ll break”, so he wants to end it while things are good and he is “still good in His grace”. A fools game for sure in real life, but a good concept for a great song.

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This is a really great song with a really deep meaning. Although I've heard that he was talking about being baptized and washing away sins, not literally drowning.

My Interpretation

To the above poster; baptism is a nice thought but it's definitely about suicide..

"Tell my mama I love her, tell my father I tried, give my money to my baby to spend"

youtube.com/watch

In that interview he talks about the song is actually based on the mass baptisms that happened in the South and is a reference to the Basketball Diaries. He also says before playing the song for that same Rolling Stones song that it is about "washing away your sins, no matter how deep you have to dive".

The song is about baptizing yourself and washing away your sins, even if it means drowning in the process would be my guess.

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I've always assumed this song is about his heroin addiction. He's going to Harlem to buy heroin, and he knows what his addiction is doing to him. The song being particularly tragic given his death from an opiod overdose.

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