“Bottom of the River” and Beloved

The song that most reminds me of Beloved is “Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae.

The verses, which are from a different perspective than the chorus, tell the Mother through call and response of terrible things to come and that she should drown her son before an angry God takes him away. Like Sethe, the unnamed mother in the song kills her child to protect them.

One way to interpret the chorus is that the Mother is calling to her child to hold her hand. This tenderness and desire for togetherness reminds me of the way Sethe was with her children. She may have tried to kill them but it was never her intention to be separated from them. I believe that had she not have had any other children she would have killed herself to be with Beloved. 

One can also imagine Beloved singing the chorus. She emerges reborn from the river with the intention of being with Sethe. However, she becomes like a parasite sucking the life from Sethe. If she comes to life after swimming to the river’s surface then swimming to the bottom of the river could represent her going back to death. Only this time she demands Sethe goes with her.

Lyrics

[Chorus]
Hold my hand
Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the river
Hold my hand
Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down, a long way down

[Verse 1]
If you get sleep or if you get none
(The cock’s gonna call in the morning, baby)

Check the cupboard for your daddy’s gun
(Red sun rises like an early warning)

The Lord’s gonna come for your first born son
(His hair’s on fire and his heart is burning)

So go to the river where the water runs
(Wash him deep where the tides are turning)

[Pre-Chorus]
And if you fall
And if you fall

[Chorus]
Hold my hand
Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down (long way down)
To the bottom of the river
Hold my hand
Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down (long way down)
A long way down

[Verse 2]
The wolves will chase you by the pale moonlight
(Drunk and driven by a devil’s hunger)

Drive your son like a railroad spike
(Into the water, let it pull him under)

Don’t you lift him, let him drown alive
(The good Lord speaks like a rolling thunder)

Let that fever make the water rise
(And let the river run dry)
And I said

[Chorus]
Hold my hand
Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down (long way down)
To the bottom of the river
Hold my hand
Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down (long way down)
A long way down

Hold my hand
Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down (long way down)
To the bottom of the river
Hold my hand
Ooh baby it’s a long way down, a long way down

One thought on ““Bottom of the River” and Beloved

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