Saturday, March 26, 2011


Heraclitus of Ephesus (c.535 BC - 475 BC) famously said "You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you." While the Greek may have been correct in the philosophical sense he was wrong when it came to music. Musicians return to the same river all the time, set up camp, and pan for nuggets where once gold was found. The Rolling Stones are a case in point. They stepped into the same river many times and started out covering old Chess records by the likes of Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters. Their first single was an old Chuck Berry nugget, "Come on." With all due respect to Heraclitus, they were part of that ever-changing flow of time. "All things flow," he said, "and nothing endures but change."

"Watching the River Flow" might have been written by Heraclitus, but it was actually written by another philosopher knee-deep in the rushing river, Bob Dylan. The Stones recently recorded a bluesy cover of the song for an upcoming tribute to Ian Stewart, one of their original members, and word has it that Bill Wyman, another original, returned from retirement to play bass on the track. It sounds good. Out of time and timeless. Give the song a listen and pay attention to the wind-down at the end.

Note: To some contemporary music fans, Dylan and the Stones may seem irrelevant and outdated, but even if you're spinning hip hop, Deerhoof, or the Glee soundtrack, every so often it's worth going back to learn something new from something old. Pack a lunch and head down to the river. Who knows? You just might bump into Heraclitus.

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