“Cool Water,” a classic western song, was written in 1936 by Bob Nolan (1908-1980), a Canadian transplant to Arizona, who fell in love with the desert. Nolan, an actor, poet, singer, and songwriter also wrote “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds,” and is credited with the creation of “western music” as a distinct genre.
“Cool Water” tells of a man and his mule, lost in the desert and beset with mirages. The song has been widely covered by artists as diverse as Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, Joni Mitchell, Burl Ives, Johnny Cash, The Muppets, and Fleetwood Mac.
All day I’ve faced a barren waste
Without the taste of water, cool water
Old Dan and I with throats burnt dry
And souls that cry for water, cool, clear, water.
The song came to mind for obvious reasons last week: Gov. Brown to declare California drought emergency. Nobody here needs the newspaper to tell us we’re in trouble. A glance at the brown lawns in January, and the American River, running lower than I’ve ever seen it at this time of year will do that.
My thoughts have been filled with many songs, stories, and images of water that I will be sharing here. I was planning on writing a longer post today, but I never got past this clip of Marty Robbins’ version of “Cool Water.”
I first heard the song on my absolute favorite album as a kid, Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. Even though he’s kidding around with his friends (I think it’s a clip from “Hee Haw”), if you listen, it sounds like a prayer. I think I’ll leave it at that for today.