REM: Find the River (from

Lyrics, with 3 nice comments:

Hey now, little speedy head
The read on the speed meter says
You have to go to task in the city
Where people drown and people serve
Don’t be shy
Your just deserve
Is only just light years to go

Me, my thoughts are flower strewn
Ocean storm, bayberry moon
I have got to leave to find my way
Watch the road and memorize
This life that pass before my eyes
Nothing is going my way

The ocean is the river’s goal
A need to leave the water knows
We’re closer now than light years to go

I have got to find the river
Bergamot and Vetiver
Run through my head and fall away
Leave the road and memorize
This life that pass before my eyes
Nothing is going my way

There’s no one left to take the lead
But I tell you and you can see
We’re closer now than light years to go
Pick up here and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
Fall into the ocean

The river to the ocean goes
A fortune for the undertow
None of this is going my way
There is nothing left to throw
Of Ginger, lemon, indigo
Coriander stem and rose of hay
Strength and courage overrides
The privileged and weary eyes
Of river poet search naivete
Pick up here and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
All of this is coming your way

Here are three nice comments from Songmeanings:

  • My InterpretationAutomatic for the People is my favorite album, and Find the River may be my favorite track on it. The entire album deals with different stages of life, from youth, to mid life crisis, to death, and at points the record does take the listener to a melancholy place. I’m fairly certain Find the River was chosen for the final track very purposefully. Like other tracks on the record it is a song about nearing the end, but instead of feeling any bitterness or regret, they rejoice in a great hope that someone they love will experience all the beauty that they have as the cycle of life continues. It offers a peace of mind knowing that loved ones will follow to see and experience the beauty of life beyond your own years. It takes Automatic for the People full circle and offers the listener a grand sense of hope despite loss.


    I often think of my Grandmother who has passed when I hear this song. The lessons she taught me, the hope that she instilled in me. She knew near the end, that life, its much bigger than ones self, its how you impact others, how you love, so that you in an essence can live beyond the grave through the people that cared about you.

    That’s what I believe Find the River is about.

    Cliff1975on June 28, 2011   Link
    General CommentHow are there not more comments for this, the most beautiful of songs? The imagery here is pretty vivid, it always reminds me of running through summer fields and floating down country rivers; lines like “I have got to find the river/Bergamot and vetiver/Run through my head and fall away” bring me back to summers spent in the country.


    The song is, of course, about trying to grow up so fast (“Hey there little speedyhead”), only to look back as an old man and be overwhelmed by the beautiful memories. It’s about trying in vain to communicate to the young what lies ahead, when “There is nothing left to throw of ginger, lemon, indigo, coriander stem, rose of hay … all of this is coming your way.” But, alas, the words fall on deaf ears, the young man’s “strength and courage overrides the privileged and weary eyes of river poet search naivete.”

    This is said to be a very personal song for Michael Stipe, and it shows through in his voice and the cryptic, quickfire nature of his words. Everything comes together in this song to make it REM’s best.

    ballzofsnoon April 29, 2002   Link
    General Comment One of REM’s best. To me, this song has always about finding your purpose in life. In the first verse, the lyrics appeal to the everyday working lives of the listener. From there, Stipe tells you parts of his story with beautiful imagery and an appeal to the shortness of life and the length of time. This song has always resonated with me to make the most of my lifetime as our time here is limited and the time of the universe is long beyond our comprehension. Notice the play between the lines “Is only just light years to go” and “We’re closer now than light years to go” (We’re *closer now,* emphasis mine on the key words). As if Stipe is saying your life is passing right in front of you and the time left of the light years is still long but already moments shorter….so get to it. Get to your life.


    To me, this is likely the highlight of Automatic for the People. A song that I’ll listen to when I need to appreciate the world and my small place in it for an unknown time. I hope this song means as much to you as it does to me.

    thereadletteron January 09, 2016   Link


The name refers to Rapid Eye Movement, the name for the phase of sleep when we are dreaming. This band has often very strangely meaningful lyrics written in an automatic fashion. The result is something like Nostradamus, a wavering between nonsense and tongues. My sister Marti, ten years younger, gave me R. E. M. and Sinead O’Connor, the latter including the song where light pours out of the Irish violin in sound, as examples of the best of their music. (Soon, from electric violin, someone will think to discover electric harp. I cannot wait to hear what this might sound like!) We especially like “Night Swimming” and “Wendell G” and “Amanita,” named after a mushroom. “Losing My Religion” is their most famous song, about losing faith in love (and perhaps from love). “I believe” and “The End of the World as we know it” would also be worth considering in detail. (Indeed, the best reading seems to be that it does start with an earthquake, called the opening of the Sixth seal.) The band came by surprise out of Atlanta Georgia playing mandolins with the B-52’s, whose “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster” also show this Athens sound. As “Alternative” rock, there is also a similarity to Jack White, and the band is VERY tight, like Tull in performance.

More R.E.M: Twitter comments.

On “Fire.”

So, lyric poetry in rock music is a speaking of the soul to the one loved. That’s why this one catches. And it is fire. He does not sing the lines ‘(she is coming down on her own now).” Strange.

On Losing My Religion:

Well, “Losing my religion” of course intends the cliche’, which means being disillusioned. It also means seeing beyond a love, as in the opening lines. But the analogy of love and faith is what catches the unconscious. He sees himself, in the corner, seeing what disillusioned.

Thing about a lyric poet as Stipe, his mere loves ARE of general significance.

Wikipedia: “Stipe has repeatedly stated that the song’s lyrics are not about religion. The phrase “losing my religion” is an expression from the southern region of the United States that means “losing one’s temper or civility” or “feeling frustrated and desperate.”[10] Stipe told The New York Times the song was about romantic expression.[11] He told Q that “Losing My Religion” is about “someone who pines for someone else. It’s unrequited love, what have you.”[12] Stipe compared the song’s theme to “Every Breath You Take” (1983) by The Police, saying, “It’s just a classic obsession pop song. I’ve always felt the best kinds of songs are the ones where anybody can listen to it, put themselves in it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s me.'”[13]

So the phrase also means losing one’s composure or character, as being exasperated in a love. We maintain to reading that it is also disillusionment, and that is what hits the harmonic analogy of love and faith or religion. The indication of the Police song about unrequited love and obsession is very interesting. While Sting seems in error, Stipe seems correct in his response to “obsession.

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