Story Behind the Song: George Strait, ‘River of Love’
Billy Burnette, Shawn Camp and Dennis Morgan are the writers behind George Strait's No. 1 song "River of Love." The King of Country released the tune as the third single from his Troubador album in November of 2008. Below, the three co-writers tell The Boot how the hit came to be.
Burnette: Shawn built on the melody by playing along on a ukulele that [songwriter / producer] Cowboy Jack Clement had given him. I had a ukulele, too, so we just started playing around with it. It was a really good groove, and the song just started to fall together.
Morgan: Harland Howard used to say, "Write them with three chords and the truth," but we beat him on this one -- we only used two chords, and it might not be the truth! Shawn started singing some of the lyrics, and it just came out. I think he had that opening line: "Hey, baby, won't you take a little ride" ... I don't think we were thinking about so much as how to craft it, we were just having a ball writing it.
Burnette: The best kinds of songs are the ones that happen quickly. The demo went down easy, so when you're blessed with magic, everything else is easy. We didn't think of anyone specifically when we were writing it. We just sat down to write a really good song.
Tony [Brown, Strait's producer] made a great record with George, very accurate to the demo that we produced. It was a great experience to have George Strait sing one of my songs. It just jumps out at you on the radio. And we got to sing background on it, but they didn't ask us to play the ukulele on the record. Later, when George sang it on the CMA Awards show ... they did call us to sing background and also to play the ukulele.
Camp explains that one of the reasons that Strait didn't hear the song right away was that Josh Turner had expressed an interest in recording it.
Camp: When Josh didn't take it, the song was pitched to George. When we were standing backstage on the CMA show, waiting to go on with George and sing "River of Love," Josh was back there with us. I turned to him and jokingly said, "You know, this one could have been yours."
People love the song; it's short, sweet and simple, and just a couple bars into the song, people are ready to start singing along.
Morgan: It's a fun song, but I think maybe folks responded to it because of these times. Not to get too heavy, but it's a good song for that.
See Photos of George Strait Through the Years