Steve Miller was a monster.

Not an evil monster, at least not as far as I know. But make no mistake, he was a monster. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, Steve Miller and his band, appropriately named The Steve Miller Band, was everywhere. With an ever revolving line-up, the Steve Miller Band was formed in 1966 playing primarily electric blues. Through the years, the band changed and evolved into a rock and pop music Top 40 hit making machine.

“The Joker” hit number 1 in 1973.

“Fly Like an Eagle” hit number 3 in 1976.

1976 also saw the hits “Take the Money and Run” and their second number 1 hit “Rock’n Me.”

These were followed by the hits “Jet Airliner,” “Jungle Love and “Abracadabra.”

I was 10 years old in 1976, and the Steve Miller Band was a consistent presence in my pre-adolescent world. They regularly sold out stadium concerts. Their photo could be ironed on your t-shirt, their poster could be bought in the record store. I’ll never forget the talent show at summer camp when a group of boys wrapped their tennis rackets in tin foil and strummed them on stage as if they were guitars while Steve Miller Band music was pumped through the sound system. They flailed their arms. They held hairbrushes as if they were microphones. They jumped up and down. Everybody wanted to be The Steve Miller Band.

Even though I had yet to mature into the music fan I would one day become, I never really connected with the music of The Steve Miller Band. During college, Miller released a solo album of Jazz covers called Born 2B Blue, which I enjoyed at the time, but it wasn’t until 1993 that Miller released a song that I really, really loved.

“Wide River” was the lead song, and name of the fifteenth Steve Miller Band album. Like shallow water running over a series of rocks and pebbles, the song begins with a few snare drum hits, and then a rolling intro. A few gentle strums on the guitar starts things off, and the rhythm never stops.

“Wide river she opens her mouth to the sea
Singin’ dear dear ocean now, here is a kiss from me
And she runs like a river to the setting sun
She runs like a river that has never been won
She runs like a river that will always be free”

The lyrics are lovely, but only surface deep (pardon the pun). It’s the gentle, consistent rhythm, and it’s the harmonies on the second half of every chorus that make this an imminently pleasurable experience every time I listen.

I can smell the river under a night sky. I can see the moving water.

“Wide river, carry me back home
To the place I love, that I call my own
And we can run like a river to the setting sun
Run like a river that has never been won
Run like a river that will always be free”

There is a peacefulness to the song and a maturity that was lacking in their mid-70’s arena rock anthems.

“Come on baby, let’s circle each other
What we can do, do for each other
I’ll do for you, and you’ll do for me

And we can run like a river to the setting sun
Run like a river that has never been won
Run like a river that will always be free”

The river tells us to go, to leave home and explore the world. And it is the river we return to, with the people we love, with life’s accomplishments behind us. The river sends us out, and the river brings us back.

Though Steve Miller continues to perform to this day, he is certainly not the hit making machine he once was. Their most recent album was released almost 10 years ago, and it was all blues and country western covers.

“Wide River” is not the music of an artist filling stadiums, and kids are not wrapping their tennis rackets in aluminum foil as they pretend to harmonize on its poetic lyrics. Maybe that’s why “Wide River” is such an imminently pleasurable and listenable song.

“Wide River”
Written by Steve Miller and Chris McCarty
Performed by The Steve Miller Band
Released 1993

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