Did your youth church group adopt Rivers Of Babylon?
August 20, 2021 2:30 PM   Subscribe

I could swear that I learned The Melodians' Rivers Of Babylon as a folky, non-reggae song growing up in the 80s, most likely as a singalong at a liberal Christian summer camp or other church youth group (or possibly at folk festivals). I definitely do not mean the Boney M version but a folk style that deemphasized the ska stroke. And definitely not the 1979 performance for the Pope. Does anyone else remember it making into that sort of canon?
posted by Candleman to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can tell you that a folk version as you mention is well-attested in the Jewish youth group world in the early 2000s. It also helps that Ps. 19:14 ("May the words of my mouth...") is an often-recited part of the Jewish liturgy. It's not in any of the songsters I have access to -- I would love to be able to give you documentation back a few more decades but no dice.
posted by goingonit at 2:53 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I spoke too soon, it's in Rise Up Singing (duh!) My edition which was published in 2004 lets me know that it appeared in Sing Out! magazine Vol. 23, Issue 6 which was published in 1975, meaning that it was current in the (secular) folk world at that point, as well as in "Worship in Song" which appears to be a Quaker hymnal from 1996.

So it's entirely possible that you heard a folk version of the Melodians' Rivers of Babylon either in a religious or secular context in the 80s.
posted by goingonit at 3:06 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Rise Up Singing and Sing Out! both sound familiar (my parents were immersed in that type of folk scene). Thanks for confirming I'm not hallucinating it.
posted by Candleman at 3:31 PM on August 20, 2021

Best answer: On Linda Ronstadt's Hasten Down the Wind, 1976, a capella.
posted by bricoleur at 4:53 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Don McLean’s version may be a pleasant surprise to anyone who only knows Boney M’s
posted by rd45 at 5:12 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah, totally. Unitarian youth group in the 80s sang this, but we referenced the Bob Marley version - along with "Three Little Birds."
posted by Miko at 7:34 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I learned it in school when I was six, so 1976. Perhaps a few years later at most.
posted by alaaarm at 9:31 PM on August 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

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