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Moody River Lyrics

Artist: Pat Boone

Moody River

-Artist: Pat Boone from "Pat Boone's Greatest Hits"-MCA: MCAC 10085
-peak Billboard position # 1 in 1961
-Words and Music by Gary D. Bruce

(Moody river, moody river)

Moody river, more deadly than the vainest knife
Moody river, your muddy water took my baby's life

Last Saturday evenin' came to the old oak tree
It stands beside the river where you were to meet me
On the ground your glove I found
With a note addressed to me
It read "Dear love, I've done you wrong"
"Now I must set you free"
"No longer can I live with this hurt and this sin"
"I just couldn't tell you that guy was just a friend"


I looked into the muddy water and what could I see?
I saw a lonely, lonely face just lookin' back at me
Tears in his eyes and a prayer on his lips
And the glove of his lost love at his fingertips


Transcribed by Robin Hood

These lyrics were transcribed from the specific recording mentioned above
and do not necessarily correspond with lyrics from other recordings, sheet
music, songbooks or lyrics printed on album jackets.


by graham on 12/31/2008 7:50am
fist class xxxxxA
by oregonguy on 6/30/2009 3:48pm
I always thought Moody River was a kind of dumb song. Now, since I finally know the lyrics, it's confirmed.
by alex on 9/1/2009 5:51pm
It's a murder ballad, the singer killed his girlfriend for cheating on him. If you take into consideration that it was a dark song for Pat Boone to sing at that time, it is pretty impressive.
by Northwwooder1 on 9/7/2009 2:29pm
Of all the songs from my past, the first chorus of Moody River always puzzled me. It still makes little sense, but at least now I know.
by Richard on 9/7/2009 10:59pm
I think it's more about suicide. He finds a note left by his girlfriend. The chorus says that the river took her life, so she must have jumped in.

by jas468 on 9/11/2009 7:31pm
John Fogerty just recorded this on his newest Blue Ridge Rangers record. Kept the same feel. Great classic song IMO.
by Rodo on 9/21/2009 2:03pm
I think it's a pretty suicide song. John Fogerty recorded excellent version.
by Freddo from Australia on 10/1/2009 5:08pm
I'm looking for different music for ballroom dancing. This may suit a Balmoral Blues. I like the tempo.
by rayolito on 11/5/2009 3:36am
watch 'last boy scout' by tony scott (or even better read the original script written by shane black). this song is amazing, fitting perfectly to the mood in the movie. great song. like that.
by Johann on 11/26/2009 11:16pm
It's a beautiful, tragic love song - now, just as it was when I first heard it nearly 50 years ago. It was written for the uncomplicated time we lived in then. Unlike today, honor meant something and to die for it was not uncommon. The sentiments expressed are no more exaggerated than any other love song.
by Dan in Capitola on 11/29/2009 4:19pm
Check John Fogerty's version from his Blue Ridge Rangers album.
by David Papke on 12/21/2009 10:39am
yeah, Fogerty's version is the best; nice mandolin/guitar lines with the pedal steel underneath setting the appropriate mood. . .a very cool version. Nice harmonies too.
by dpy on 1/19/2010 9:27am
reminds me of my mom, it was her favorite song.. (she has this scar on her left wrist that she often softly rubs in silent, as a young kid i asked her how she got it - and she just said it's from an accident, ..and only days after she passed away, found her diary, and founds out that she tried to commit suicide when she was about 18yrs old by slitting her wrist..) ..and so I am here, at this very moment listening to moody river and thinking of her and how very close i'm to never ever happen.. i miss you so much mom!
by JR on 4/8/2010 10:57am
DPY .. I too lost my mom in 1/10, and though she did not attempt this, she was lonely in her last days. I am destroyed by her passing. Only wish I could have spent more time with her (distance). To everyone, love your precious family .. all of them and tell them NOW. Be with them and understand & respect their private secrets. Tomorrow may never come.
by Pookie on 7/7/2010 5:34am
Hey, It's just a song, why is everybody getting all soft and mushy. I mean "moody" can a river have emotions....moody??? That dumb girl jumped in by herself...the dang river didn't do's all kinda stupid fer gosh sakes!!!
by Chopper on 7/9/2010 1:13am
Pookie have to have "feelings" to appreciate the Lyrics, you obviously have none.
by wild bill on 8/4/2010 9:58am
I struggled for years to understand the words "vainest knife." Now that I know the words, am curious what is a vain knife?
by Yamaspec on 8/17/2010 10:41am
Great song, i heard it for first time when i was a child thanks my dad's music, its a sad love song and everybody here, i didn't understand very well in the beginning. Great music from great times just like Johann said.
by Sirkka Kalaranta on 10/20/2010 4:51am
Nostalgia, memory, great song.
by TC on 11/4/2010 9:26pm
It's a real good song, Sirius plays it. I have it by Johnny Burnette, good version but of course, Pat's is the big hit.
by Linda Austin on 11/15/2010 6:09pm
Moody River morbidly and on this night
Moody River, your muddy waters took my baby's life.
by sl on 11/17/2010 3:24pm
never understood chorus until today,and Im 62yrs old! thought it was mordantly and the vagueist night...what the...what is vain knife?
by Linda on 11/21/2010 4:33pm
Vein knife-girls used to cut the veins in their wrists to commit (or attempt) Suicide. Fogerty's cover is great with the mandolin, but Pat's is timeless.
by old guy on 11/28/2010 8:28am
she just wanted to get away, staged a suicide and then left the country
by ROCKER RICH on 3/10/2011 9:41am
Yeah: "morbidly and on this night"
sounds right--the very line I wanted clarified which led me to this website.

Boone's version--arranged by post-big band era's Billy Vaughn--had one of the most memorable piano motifs in modern music. One reason for hit status.
by 1 guy on 3/19/2011 4:51am
I think it was a double suicide. The lyrics say the singer saw a guy in the water holding a glove belonging to a girl (who must have been washed away by the river).
by Redhead on 3/25/2011 3:08pm
That "lonely face" was a reflection of the singer's face as he was holding the glove of his lost love. Since the water was muddy, might have been a guilt reflection. Still don't understand 'vainest' and have never heard of a vein knife.
by Dwhite on 6/3/2011 1:35pm
More deadly than the vainest knife?
by old italian on 7/6/2011 7:54am
I've listened last week Pat singing MOody river. I think that it was the first time after many years. What a great emotion!
by Ray Lewis on 7/16/2011 11:24am
A guy is supposed to meet his gf at the river. When he arrives he finds a note saying she can't take the guilt of having cheated on him and takes her own life by jumping into the river.
by Carl on 7/19/2011 11:43am
I always liked the melody, but didn't understand the lyrics.
by R.S.Hudson on 8/26/2011 4:48pm
Just learned this song to play. Won't sing vainest knife'makes no sence to me. Will sing sharpest kinife
by stella castro on 9/11/2011 9:45pm
i want to hear pat boone moody river
by Pauli Smalls on 12/26/2011 10:41am
suprised by the number of people asking about veinest knife. It's another way of saying sharpest knife, that's all.
by Sunlover on 1/8/2012 2:30pm
I think the "vainest kife" refers to "vanity." There are two clues to that interpretation.

One is that "vein" (as in anatomy) is spelled differently than "vainest."

More significantly, women often choose cutting their wrists or drug overdoses rather than other methods of suicide that would disfigure them. Often the suicide is motivated by romantic emotions and turmoil (cheating by a spouse, a breakup, etc.) and the woman is by committing siuicide sending a message about what her lover has caused and lost. That message is less effective if the method of suicide destroys her appearance (and thus "appeal" to her lover.). Thus the phrase "leaving a pretty corpse."

It's been said that women who do that were "vain" even in death (i.e.: afraid to mess up their looks.). But the choice of method has more to do with the root cause of the suicide.

So in the lyrics, the imagery is that the river took her life just as surely as the sharpest knife.
by Norm Clark on 1/23/2012 3:10pm
I always thought it said Vegas night and couldn't figure that had any logic to it. But now I know the true words are vainest knife. I think Vegas night makes more sense. haha
by Old Steve on 2/3/2012 4:25pm
The girl faked her own suicide so she could run off with her "friend".He must of really had something that her boyfriend lacked.
by Mike from Brooklyn on 2/3/2012 5:32pm
Stupid as this sounds I used to somehow compare this song to Moon River. I just heard it on some cable channel and decided to check the lyrics. I'm in my 60's now and feel the singers loss. Maybe it's my years, I don't know. I think it is straight forward. As for vain, "vein" sounds good as some of the other respondents explained it. I just wonder if the lyricist imagined this out of whole clothe, or heard of or had some experience that was the reason he wrote it. Best to all - stay alive if you can.
by CARC90405 on 2/14/2012 12:25am
What does "vainest knife" mean?Not much apparently!!
Moody River was written by Gary D Bruce and first recorded by him in 1961 using his performer name Chase Walker. His original words were "more deadly than the SHARPEST knife" but during the recording session the P in "sharPest" kept popping so rather than find a different mike, Gary (Chase) changed sharpest to "VAINEST" on the spot and probably very little if any thought went in to the meaning of vainest.
When Pat Boone recorded it a couple of months later Dot Records chief, Randy Wood checked to make sure the lyric was correct before releasing the record. Pat Boone says he had no idea what a "vainest knife" was and just sang the lyrics as written. Pat's Moody River topped the charts on June 17, 1961.
by lyndoncenter on 4/30/2012 11:59am
I never understood that first line either until reading it today. Similar problem in "Liberty Valance" in "From the moment a girl gets to be full grown," could not make sense of that for forty-something years. Finally got it one day.
by catmandu on 4/30/2012 2:59pm
Moody doesn't mean the river has moods- Moody is less common than Smith, but is a family name-prolly river was named after a Mr Moody
by coop on 5/26/2012 7:02pm
I thoughtit was vegas night also, of course my husband (the music man) said it was vainest knife!
by Melody Man on 7/21/2012 6:52am
Does anyone know who played the wonderful piano riff on Pat Boones recording?
by melody man on 7/21/2012 8:05am
Found out it was Hargus "Pig" Robbins a blind session muso.He also played that sublime piano on the Charlie Rich single "Behind Close Doors" Top Dawg!!!
by Jerry Napier on 8/6/2012 2:12pm
Finally after 50 plus years, I can stop trying to figure out the lyrics to the chorus.
by Jerry on 8/6/2012 2:14pm
Finally after 50 pus years, I can stop trying to figure out the lyrics for the chorus.
by Jordan Elliott Kamnitzer on 9/16/2012 11:27am
The girl committed suicide for commuting adultery. The narrator saw his own reflection in the river.
by smittry Bolsinger on 9/19/2012 4:21pm
I love pat's voice I really like Love letters In The Sand and in fact we have the b_day June !st.
by zabuk on 12/7/2012 1:26am
by laweeks on 1/24/2013 5:10pm
sorry,but for 50+ years I've thought the words were stupid, and they sounded like this:

Moody River, fortunately,
Land of Vegas nights

Which, of course make no sense. Now that I've read the lyrics, the song is really stupid.
by Arleen Robbins on 4/5/2013 2:52am
Moody River, Haunted me, and the latest night.......... Well the words I thought it said were no more stupid than the real ones.
by Dave Law on 8/12/2013 9:23am
Best explanation for "vainest" comes from CARC90405. Pressings of vinyl discs that contained a sharp "P" caused the grooves to form too close together, consequently the stylus jumped when playing. Pop-guards can be seen placed a short distance from microphones to filter the "p".
by Dave Law on 8/16/2013 4:04am
A further thought: If they had used the word "keenest" i.e. sharpest, this would have avoided the popping problem and still made perfect sense. (Hindsight is a wonderful thing)I shall have this new word firmly in my mind next time I hear this song.
by Charles Ketchum on 10/4/2013 8:17pm
I have been exonerated by the continuous list of reviewers who never "completely" understood the lyrics. I thought it read "faintest night", not "vainest knife". That part of those lyrics is just "BS" or the origin of the "brain fart".
by chris gallegos sr on 12/19/2013 9:41pm
Two people, one unstable, in a one sided love affair....the music is what sets the mood, and the survivor picks up on that.....and the sad facts. I have always loved Pat Boone's version.
by Delia on 12/26/2013 6:12pm
He goes to meet her at the river and finds she has taken her life because she had cheated on him.
by Delia on 12/26/2013 6:14pm
What he means by more deadly than a veinest knife is that the river will definately kill you by drowning. Wiki is your friend.
by Kathleen on 1/11/2014 2:52pm
I'd forgotten about struggling to figure out that line! The best I could come up with was "...forged as deep as the latest night." Not sure the real words make much more sense. Loved the song, though. Kids eat up those tragic endings!
by Doug Steven on 3/2/2014 1:03pm
The words are: Bayonet Knife, Not Vainest Knife
by bronislaw gimp on 3/4/2014 5:01pm
The words are not bayonet knife. What a maroon.
by Jordan Kamnitzer on 4/26/2014 4:39pm
He saw his won reflection in the water with tears, a prayer, and a glove of his lost love in his fingertips.
by Dave Law on 5/18/2014 11:30am
bronislaw gimp you are quite correct the lyric is not "bayonet knife", but I don't think Doug Steven is that colour!
by Sergio from Italy on 9/28/2014 10:16am
This song will always makes me sad although I love it very much. Pat was at his top.
by koddie on 11/4/2014 9:48pm
I always thought "more deadly" was "morbidly" ... seems I'm maroon as well :)
by john on 12/7/2014 3:03pm
john fogarty wishes. problem is we've gotten so deep into techno and " If you have no talent, turn up the volume." i.e. Kiss, ozzie, etc. Young folks think this is music, having no basis in real talent comparison. Probably think Roy Orbison was a cowboy movie star with a horse named Trigger
by Suzie on 1/10/2015 4:53pm
Can't believe how many people have commented here for a song recorded half a century ago. Just saw old tape of Pat Boone singing it on an old Lawrence Welk show. Went to check out the lyrics "more deadly". I couldn't figure it out "morbidly" or " mordantly". I have trouble understanding lyrics.
by Randy on 1/11/2015 5:53pm
I believe moody river was first recorded by jerry butler. After three weeks or so pat Boone released his version. Try to find the jerry butler version today is practically impossible. The last time I heard it was on Sirius Xm. For some reason I don't know I really like the song.
by Ken on 1/31/2015 11:21am
I had the same trouble as others trying to understand the opening lyrics. I had the same problem with Elvis Presley's "Lonesome Cowboy" It sounded like "Obatye that dream of mine." He was singing "Rope and tie."
by rick on 2/3/2015 2:36am
Vain can also mean hopeless. Love the song and pat Boones effortless sound.
by High Pit Wilma on 2/17/2015 2:10pm
She didn't cheat!!She said she just couldn't tell him,that guy was just a friend!!
Shows the tragedy of jealousy!
Jealousy is the root of all evil...not money!!
Check out Elvis's "Hot Banana's"
I bought Pat's version in 1961,and have always been puzzled
by these lyrics!![I'm a muso!]
by F. Martin on 3/2/2015 9:16am
I think everybody has it wrong! "vainest knife" makes no sense at all.
I think it is "VEINOUS KNIFE"...a knife that cuts in suicide.
by Dave Law on 3/30/2015 10:55am
Interesting thought but what dictionary did you find the word "Veinous" in?
There is a saying: "The whole army was out of step except him."
by Clara Boley on 5/8/2015 7:30pm
Who said the love was a woman. Think about it, not once is there mention of a woman.
by Dave Law on 5/20/2015 2:54am
Now that's a whole new can of worms. Let's close the lid quickly, before they wriggle their way into every love song that doesn't specifically define the gender....Too late!...a worm has wriggled... all my favourites will never be the same again....Arrrrgh!
by Lord Lucan on 5/22/2015 1:05am
Fooled everybody. Didn't take a dive, the river far too cold. Living the 'Beach Life' with me in the Maldives.
Hang on, got to get this can open. Pass that knife thingy Dave. Wriggle wriggle.
by Marion Condo on 6/2/2015 11:34am
I'm going with Linda Austin. I am 70 years old and have been trying to figure that line out FOREVER. Finally thought to look up on computer and got a surprise by everyone else's opinions. "Morbidly and on this night" makes the most sense.
by Lord Lucan on 6/3/2015 2:21am
Listen VERY CAREFULLY from CD with quality headphones.
Pat Boone sings: "Moody river more deadly, than the vainest (or veinest) knife." because he was asked to, as the word sharpest would have created a popping sound which at the time created technical problems when pressing vinyl discs. The grooves got too close and the needle would jump.
The word "vainest" or "veinest" is not grammatically correct but it's not the end of the world. (That's another song.)
The word "knife" rhymes with "life". "night" does not. The phrase as sung scans, so enjoy the song for what it is. We are still here in the Maldives
by Geoff on 6/18/2015 2:01am
Randy, Jerry Butler sang moon river in 1960.
by Lord Lucan on 6/22/2015 8:57am
Quite correct Geoff. The song titles are very similar and memory can play tricks.
Although Andy Williams had the big international hit, for me the U.K. number one version of 'MOON RIVER' by the late Danny Williams in 1961 was better. I wonder if anyone is confused by the lyrics? e.g What is a "Huckleberry friend"?
Someone must know. Being a Brit, I don't.
by Lord Lucan on 6/22/2015 10:58am
Jerry Butler also recorded a song called "MOODY WOMAN" as well as "MOON RIVER", hence the understandable confusion. I now believe that the term "Huckleberry friend" was coined by Henry Mancini to mean a friend since childhood as in Mark Twain's book 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'.
A lesson learned: Do a bit of research before submitting a comment.

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