The Mississippi River has inspired generations of musicians to write songs about it. In the list below, you will find songs that go back to the beginning of recorded music and others that were recorded in the past year. Many of the songs are from genres we now call roots music or Americana—traditional blues and country—but the list also includes a number of rock songs, modern country, jazz, and soul. I haven’t come across many hip hop songs, yet, but I’m still looking.

Check back often, as I’m continually updating the table. The first time I posted the list, it included about 70 songs; you can see how long the list is now.

HINT: Check out the piece I wrote about the history of music along the Mississippi River.

I’m rather obsessive when it comes to making lists. I like making them, and I like figuring out criteria to make them work. I’m weird that way. After spending a couple of months compiling this list, I realized that my first set of criteria just weren’t going to work. They were too broad, mostly because I wanted to include songs about places along the river, even if the river isn’t mentioned. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I was creating a list without end, especially after I found a web site that listed over 1000 songs about Memphis alone. I can only imagine the number of songs that have been written about New Orleans. In the revised list, I have therefore dropped songs that didn’t at least mention the Mississippi River, even if it is about a river town, which I had to drop some of my favorite songs likes St. Louis Blues and Going Back to Memphis. Maybe someday I’ll do a separate list of songs about river towns.

So here are the simple rules I am following now to decide whether a song is about the Mississippi River:

  1. The song is about the Mississippi River (duh!); or
  2. The lyrics or song title reference the Mississippi River; or
  3. The song is about a river without naming the Mississippi specifically but composed by or performed by an artist who lives/lived along the Mississippi River; or
  4. The lyrics are a bit ambiguous (is it about the state of Mississippi? the River Mississippi?), but I think it’s close enough. It is my list, after all.

Some of the songs in this list are classics that have been recorded multiple times by many artists. I doubt if I’ll ever get around to listing each version of those songs, but right now I’m trying to include the first recorded version plus any other versions that I think are fun or interesting. This is why I’ve included several versions of Ol’ Man River, like the reggae interpretation by The Techniques.

Between you and me, I don’t care for every song on the list, but that doesn’t really matter; I’m just trying to compile a list t of songs about the Mississippi River Valley. I’ll let you decide which ones you like and which you don’t.

Right now, these are my favorites:

  • A Change is Gonna Come: Sam Cooke
  • Big River: Johnny Cash
  • Down to Memphis: J.J. Cale
  • Floating Bridge: Sleepy John Estes
  • Lee County Flood: William Elliott Whitmore
  • Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man: Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty
  • Miss the Mississippi and You: Jimmie Rodgers
  • Mississippi: Ray Bonneville
  • Mississippi Moon: Greg Brown
  • Mississippi River Blues: Big Bill Broonzy
  • Proud Mary: Ike & Tina Turner
  • Shanty Boat Blues: Jimmy Murphy
  • To Be Free: Fontella Bass
  • Watching the River Flow: Leon Russell

This is Mississippi River Songs version 2.0. Feel free to tell me about other songs about the Mississippi River, and let’s grow this list.

 

By the way, each week I post a Song of the Day blog that features one of these tunes. Subscribe to this blog (just look to the top right corner of this page), and you won’t miss those posts.

NEW: I’ve created a playlist in Spotify that includes many of these songs. Get to it here.

If you like the content at the Mississippi Valley Traveler, please consider showing your support by making a one-time contribution or by subscribing through Patreon. Every dollar you send makes it possible for me to continue sharing stories about America’s Greatest River!

Notes about the table: The first recorded version of each song is noted with an asterisk (*). Some song titles have been used by multiple songwriters, which makes compiling a list like this a challenge. To help you tell the difference between a remake of an existing song and a new song that just happens to have the the same title as an existing song, I’m using superscripts (numbers) to set the versions apart. So, each song with a superscript “1” is the same song recorded by different artists, while a superscript “2” for that same title indicates that it is a different song.

Songs about the Mississippi River

SongArtistFromYear
1927 Flood, TheElders McIntorsh and EdwardsMemphis Gospel: Complete Works: 1927-1929 (1998)1928
1927 Mississippi - Didn't It RainWild Goose Nation2001
…Dead in the Water [entire EP]Shedding…Dead in the Water2007
#724 Mississippi Side A 917.3Taylor Rust2011
(I'm Going Back to) BottomlandClarence Williams and His OrchestraBottomland1927
(Roll on) MississippiStrangeloves, TheI Want Candy1965
(The Other End of) the Mississippi River BluesPat DonohueBackroads2003
A Change is Gonna ComeSam CookeAin't That Good News1964
A Country Boy Can SurviveHank Williams, JrHank Williams, Jr1981
A Feather's Not a BirdRosanne CashThe River & the Thread2014
A Mississippi River Poem: Concerto in D Minor for ViolinMax W. Gottschalk[not sure if this was ever recorded]1955
A Mississippi River SymphonyThe Women's PhilharmonicSymphony, No. 3, Mississippi River (2008)1934
A Mississippi SongThomas and TheresaA Mississippi Song2012
Across the MississippiMatt Schatz and Jack HerrickGeorama2016
Adventures of Huckleberry FinnSlovak Philharmonic Orchestra & William PerryPerry: The Innocents Abroad and Other Mark Twain Films, 1980-1985 (2008)1985
Algiers PointDavid BoothConsolation2010
Alone in MemphisAustin LucasStay Reckless2013
Along for the RideOkee Dokee BrothersCan You Canoe? A Mississippi River Adventure Album2011
Along the Blue HighwayLarry LongRun for Freedom, Sweet Thunder1983
Along the MississippiNight Watchmen, TheRain Come Down2005
Amtrak SongJeffrey C. CappsThe Muddy and the Blue2009
And It RainedMr. BlinkThrowback2014
And the Mississippi Delta CriedSammy WalkerSammy Walker2008
Arrivederci MississippiAckermans, The Jump in the River Tonight2010
At the Mississippi CabaretSt. Louis RagtimersSt. Louis Ragtimers, Vol. 32001
At the Mississippi Cabaret*American QuartetVictor #176501914
AtchafalayaAndrew McKnightTraveler1994
Autumn SunsetNick ShattuckChorus and Verse2010
Back-Water BluesBessie SmithEmpress of the Blues, Vol. 2, 1926-1933 (2008)1927
Ballad of Blanche LeathersCharlie Ipcarhttp://www.charlieipcar.com/lyrics/blanche.htm2015
Ballad of John Banvard, ThePiñatalandSongs for the Forgotten Future, Vol. 22008
Banging CampHold Steady, TheSeparation Sunday2005
Banks of the Mississippi River, TheIdle Ecstatic2011
Banks of the Old Mississippi, TheShawnee KilgoreSecond Hand Dress2009
Baptize Me in the Mississippi RiverJon WatermanWaterman2009
Baptized in Dirty WaterChris Thomas KingRise2006
barge crossingShedding…Dead in the Water2007
Basin Street BluesDr. JohnGoin' Back to New Orleans1992
Battle of New OrleansJohnny HortonBattle of New Orleans (1971)1959
Battle of New OrleansHammerlockAnthems for Outlaws1999
Battle of New OrleansLonnie Donegan and His Skiffle GroupKing of Skiffle (1994)1959
Battle of New OrleansDoug KershawAlive & Pickin'1975
Battle of New Orleans*Jimmy DriftwoodNewly Discovered Early American Folk Songs1958
Beale Street BluesLouis ArmstrongLouis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy1954
Beale Street Blues*W.C. HandyMartin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Warming by the Devil's Fire (2002)1917
Beaver That Ate Moline, TheMichael "Hawkeye" Herman1995
Beefsteak When I'm HungrySteamboatin' Days (1944) by M. Wheeler
Belly Full of Whiskey (Down the Mississippi)Whiskey War Mountain RebellionRock U Festival/2012 Compilation2012
Beside the Mississippi RiverSounds of Nature, TheJust Nature2010
Best Blues Come From Old MenYoung and YataSnow Has Fallen2008
Better ManLeon BridgesComing Home2015
Big Missouri[never recorded?]Tom Sawyer: A Musical Play in 1 Act and 7 Scenes1956
Big Muddy River1*Tom PachecoBluefields1995
Big Muddy River2*Traveled GroundTraveled Ground2008
Big Muddy1*Mojo Blues BandBlues Parade 20001999
Big Muddy2*Jack WilliamsWalkin' Dreams2003
Big Muddy3*Step Into the BlueStep Into the Blue2006
Big Muddy4*484 South Band, TheMississippi Nights2009
big old riverbad heart bullfight like a girl2011
Big River, Big ManClaude KingMeet Claude King1961
Big River1Grateful DeadSteal Your Face1976
Big River1*Johnny CashJohnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar1957
Big River2*Zachary RichardZack's Bon Ton1988
Big River3*Kevin FowlerChippin' Away2011
Big WaterTom Russell with Iris DeMentThe Long Way Around1997
Black WaterDoobie BrothersWhat Were Once Vices Are Now Habits1974
Blackwater ManTerry Pepplesoundcloud.com2015
Blackwater MusicSpencer BohrenBlackwater Music2011
BottomlandClarence Williams and His OrchestraBottomland1927
BottomlandsShady MixBottomlands1998
Bound to TalkJohn D. LambSoundcloud.com2012
Bourbon Street CowboyDash Rip RockCountry Girlfriend2008
Broken Levee BluesBroken Levee BluesLonnie Johnson, Vol. 4 (1928-19290 [1991]1928
BrotherOkee Dokee BrothersCan You Canoe? A Mississippi River Adventure Album2011
Brother LeeCitizen CopeEvery Waking Moment2006
Bullfrog Opera, TheOkee Dokee BrothersCan You Canoe? A Mississippi River Adventure Album2011
BurlingtonEric Pettit LionEric Pettit Lion2014
Burning of the Grand Republic, TheJohn HartfordNo End of Love2008
Bury Me on the Banks of the Mississippi RiverRemus Tucker Band, TheSouth of New Orleans2013
By the Little Mississippi RiverPaul LaChapelleNightscapes: Midnight Sounds from the Wild2000
By the River (Mississippi)Phil Mitchell BandAmerica2010
Bye You ByeJoe PriceRequests1999
Cairo Blues1*Melvin "Little Son" JacksonBlues Come to Texas (1981)1949
Cairo Blues2*James "Son" ThomasHard Times (2003)1968
Cairo, IllinoisPokey LaFargeBeat, Move, and Shake2008
Cajun StompKurt AdametzORF Universum Vol. 16: Ol' Man River - Machtiger Mississippi2011
CaliforniaHavalina Rail Co.America1999
Campin' TentOkee Dokee BrothersCan You Canoe? A Mississippi River Adventure Album2011
Can We Find a Reason?Lenny Kravitz51998
Can You CanoeOkee Dokee BrothersCan You Canoe? A Mississippi River Adventure Album2011
Can't Stop the MississippiCharley PrideMoody Woman1989
Captain Walter KarnathEddie AllenThe Trempealeau Hotel1985
Carry Them RiverDavid G. SmithNon-Fiction2010
Casey BillEarl McDonald's Original Louisville Jug BandGood for What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows, 1926-1937 (2005)1927
Casey Jones Went Down on the Robert E. LeeArthur Collins and Byron G. Harlanarchive.org1913
CatfishBig Jack JohnsonRiver of Song: A Musical Journey Down the Mississippi1996
Catfish BluesJohn Lee HookerJohn Lee Hooker Fifty Favorites (2002)1949
Catfish BluesTaj Mahal & Toumani DiabateKulanjan1999
Catfish BluesJimi HendrixElectric Ladyland1968
Catfish Blues (Fishin' After Me)BB KingMy Kind of Blues1961
Catfish Blues*Robert PetwayCotton Pickin" Blues (2000)1941
Catfish JohnBjoro HalandMy Nashville Album2004
Catfish John*Johnny RussellCatfish John1972
Change Your Ways or DieCactus BlossomsYou're Dreaming2016
Chemical VoodooAndrew McKnightWhere This River Runs1998
City of New OrleansArlo GuthrieHobo's Lullaby1972
City of the KingOwen TempleDollars and Dimes2009
Come Here, Dog, and Get Your BoneJim HenryDeep River of Song: Mississippi Saints & Sinners1936
Comet RideRicky SkaggsMark Twain: Words and Music2011
Cotton Was KingWidespread PanicDirty Side Down2010
Cottonmouth BluesDoctor G And The MudcatsSwampy Tonk Blues2015
Crawdaddy MoonshineDoctor G and the MudcatsMy Daddy's Blues2010
Crossing MississippiJeffrey FoucaultMiles From the Lightning2001
Crossing the Mississippi AgainJoni LaurenceWith No Apology2006
CrossroadsEric Clapton and the PowerhouseWhat's Shakin'1966
D'Artagnan's ThemeCitizen CopeClarence Greenwood Recordings2003
Dancin' in the Mississippi MudPeter OstroushkoMinnesota: A History of the Land2005
DarknessSpencer BohrenPresent Tense1994
Darkness on the DeltaEden BrentMississippi Number One2008
De La SalleKurt AdametzORF Universum Vol. 16: Ol' Man River - Machtiger Mississippi2011
Deep Blue Sea BluesTommy McClennanTommy McClennan, Vol. 2: Cross Cut Saw (2005)1941
Deep RiverJohn OatesMississippi Mile2011
Deep River BluesWillard Robisonarchive.org1928
Deep River BluesWhitey Kaufman OrchestraVictor recording #201251925
Deep River Blues*Rosa HendersonRosa Henderson Vol. 3 (1924-1926) [1995]1924
Deep River Blues*Katherine Handy1924
Delta Blues QueenStina StenerudKissing Fools2009
Delta QueenAndy Owens Project, TheA Compilation2007
Delta QueenMason PorterThunder in the Valley2009
Delta QueenDan RiversLouisiana Sky2005
Delta QueenCountry GentlemenBluegrass: Down by the River (2012)1974
Delta QueenNew Jordal Swingers45 Beste - 30 Ar Med Rock'n'Roll2004
Delta QueenLarry GoodwinBeulah Went to Memphis1999
Delta QueenLonesome Standard TimeLonesome Standard Time2006
Delta QueenLeftover SalmonLeftover Salmon2004
Delta QueenPSLazy River2011
Delta QueenUnder the HoodUnder the Hood2010
Delta QueenHowlin' Brothers, TheHowl2013
Delta Queen (Back Down River)Faine Jade's CandlepowerDelta Queen (Back Down River)2012
Delta Queen - SingleDanny O'KeefeSo Long Harry Truman2005
Delta Queen WaltzJohn HartfordDown on the River1989
Dem Mississippi River BoysStinky RodneyReverbnation.com
Devil and the Delta Queen, TheAdam Mcbride-SmithTraveller's Moon2012
Dink's BluesDinkAmerican Ballads and Folks Songs by John & Alan Lomax1934
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New OrleansLouis ArmstrongGreatest Hits (1996)1946
Dollars and DimesOwen TempleDollars and Dimes2009
Don't Need ItWilliam Elliott WhitmoreField Songs2011
Down by the Mississippi RiverE-Flat Rigs, The2010
Down by the RiverBing CrosbyBing Crosby at the Movies1935
Down by the RiversideSnooks EaglinCountry Boy Down in New Orleans1958
Down in Mississippi (Up to No Good)SugarlandTwice the Speed of Life2004
Down in the SwampTab BenoitWetlands2002
Down on the Levee BluesForrest City Joe (Joe B. Pugh)Association for Cultural Equity (T911R02)1959
Down on the Levee1*Peerless Quartet1912
Down on the Levee2*John HartfordNo End of Love1996
Down on the Mississippi (Levee and Steamboat Scenes)American Quartetarchive.org1911
Down River BluesTheodoreSongs for the Weary2007
Down StreamWingy Manone and His OrchestraBluebird B-73911938
Down the MississippiAl RoseMy First Posthumous Release2008
Down to MemphisJ.J. CaleRoll On2009