Billy Joel was already a star when I was born. I knew little about him when he was releasing the album ‘River of Dreams‘, which includes the song ‘The River of Dreams‘, but that didn’t matter, at first listen it made me get up and sing along 😺
Of course, I wasn’t the only one, younger people were moved by the mix of gospel and spirituals (more in the Technical Note), while those like Joel in their 40s and 50s were deeply touched by the transformational message of The River of Dreams. You know, going through dark nights and crossing rivers that lead to personal reunion.
Unlike many of his previous albums, ‘River of Dreams’ had a more serious tone, perhaps because he wrote it while he was feuding with his manager and ex-brother-in-law, Frank Weber, who embezzled millions from Billy Joel.
The fact is that if there is one word to describe ‘The River of Dreams‘ it is “exceptional“.
The River of Dreams meaning
Billy Joel is an atheist, even though he grew up in a Jewish home, having also been close to Christianity as a young man ⛪ Perhaps that induced some of the spirituality and religious touches in the song, like when he sings…
Through the valley of fear, to a river so deep
…this verse is a reference to Psalm 23:4 – “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil“. Joel also says that the river is a religious image. The origin of the song is a dream in which Joel was walking, as it says right in the first sentence:
In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep
Joel said that the next morning in the shower 🚿 a gospel melody came to him and he knew he had to write a song about that dream. The River of Dreams is a reaffirmation of spirituality, a new belief in something that is much deeper and more substantial than the things Billy had faith in before.