The Poetry of Rock: "Peace Like A River"

It’s been a while since anything from the Poetry of Rock series has been published and that just not  a good thing, as I was reminded this morning when, while working on another project, Paul Simon’s “Peace Like A River” came on the audio system. It is one of his most melodic compositions–very streamlined and pure–and also one of his very best in terms of lyrical poetry:

“Peace like a river ran through the city
Long past the midnight curfew
We sat starry-eyed
We were satisfied
And I remember
Misinformation followed us like a plague
Nobody knew from time to time
If the plans were changed
If the plans were changed.You can beat us with wires
You can beat us with chains
You can run out your rules
But you know you can’t outrun the history trair
I’ve seen a glorious day.
Four in the morning
I woke up from out of my dreams
Nowhere to go but back to sleep
But I’m reconciled
Oh, oh, oh, I’m going to be up for awhile:
–Peace Like A River, by Paul Simon

The music is very soft and melodic, a perfect counter point to the anger and power in the lyrics. The last time I heard this song–or used these lyrics–was in a eulogy for a very good and influential friend of mine who died unexpectedly a few years ago. The last stanza in particular really brought home the deep sense of loss when a good friend leaves us.  I managed to find a live version (from the iFest in London in 2011) to reacquaint you with the song. Like all Simon live performances, it’s a slightly different interpretation, not a note-for-note reproduction (there has been controversy about the piano solo at the end of this version). A very great song, worth a listen and your time.

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