5 Iconic Songs Inspired by Water

Essential to life, water has played muse to many creative types. In this special music edition of Water Chatter, I rummaged through my record collection to bring you my top 5 favourite water related songs and delve into the stories behind these iconic tunes. I certainly wouldn’t mind listening to these on repeat and hope you enjoy them too!

Bobby Darin – Beyond the Sea (1959)

The English version of “Beyond the Sea” takes its tune from the French hit “La Mer” by Charles Trenet. While the French tune was a homage and ode to the changing moods of the sea, the lyrics of the English version (which inserted an additional word, “Beyond”, to the title) has a more romantic twist: it tells the story of a lover on a shore waiting for a loved one to return from the sea. While it has been sung by many artists over the past six decades, Bobby Darin’s version is undoubtedly the most famous.

Audrey Hepburn – Moon River (1961)

A charming classic that needs no introduction. Moon River was Holly Golightly’s theme song in the feature film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a movie that cemented Audrey Hepburn’s place as one of Hollywood’s royalty. Composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer, the song received many accolades, including an Academy  Award for Best Original Song and Grammy Award for Record of the Year. The inspiration behind the song: the waterways of Savannah, Georgia where songwriter Mercer spent his childhood.

Otis Redding – (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay (1968)

A relaxing, idyllic getaway on a floating houseboat in California inspired Otis Redding to write one of the most soulful masterpiece of all time. Not surprisingly, the song also features whistling and sounds of waves crashing on a shore. Sadly, Redding was killed in a plane crash just days after he recorded the song in 1967. The Dock of the Bay was released after his death and was the first posthumous song to reach the number-one spot on the U.S charts.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (1970)

With a band name like Creedence Clearwater Revival, it is no surprise that CCR has a slew of water related tunes in their discography. One of my favourites from them is this one. Some have speculated that the song’s lyrics reference the Vietnam War, with the “rain” being a metaphor for bombs falling from the sky, but lead singer/guitarist John Fogerty have said otherwise in interviews, claiming that the song is about rising tension and unhappiness within the band. It seems that despite their fame and fortunes, somehow all members of the band at the time were depressed and unhappy, thus the lyric in the song “Have you ever seen the rain, coming down on a sunny day.”

Deep Purple – Smoke on the water (1973)

Smoke on the water is best recognised for its spectacular guitar riff that inspired millions of teenagers to pick up the instrument. The story behind the song is equally amazing. Deep Purple were in Montreux, Switzerland to record its album at the Montreux Casino. Staying in a hotel across the water from the venue, the band watched in horror as the casino caught fire and burned to the ground after a Frank Zappa fan fired a flare gun into its opulent ceiling during a concert. The song is honoured in Montreux by a sculpture along the lake shore with the band’s name, the song title, and the riff in musical notes.

What’s your favourite water song? Share with me in the comments section below! 🙂

By Brooke Coventina










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