top of page
Rivers of Babylon
Song

Rivers of Babylon

Boney M
Album:

Song Meaning and Background of Rivers of Babylon by Boney M


Probably one of the most well-known Jamaican songs of all time, Rivers of Babylon tells the story of the Israelites being taken captive by Babylon.


The song is based on Psalm 137:1-4, a hymn expressing the lamentations of the Jewish people in exile following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Previously the Kingdom of Israel, after being united under Kings David and Solomon, had been split in two, with the northern Kingdom Of Israel conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC, which caused the dispersion of 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel. T


he southern Kingdom of Judah, home of the tribe of Judah and part of the Tribe of Levi, remained free from foreign domination until the Babylonian conquest to which the song refers.


This Rastafari song was written and recorded by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the Jamaican reggae group The Melodians in 1970, and also appeared on the soundtrack album for the 1972 movie The Harder They Come, which made it internationally known. It is a powerful, uplifting piece that talks about the Israelites’ sufferings during their exile by Babylon and how they long for Zion (Jerusalem). It also describes how they are forced to sing songs for their captors in this strange land.


Boney M., a disco group with roots in Germany, covered "Rivers of Babylon" in 1978; a single-length version of their rendition was made available.


The single by Boney M. peaked at no. 30 on the Pop charts in the US and spent five weeks at no. 1 in the UK. It was also the group's lone notable entry there. Only seven songs in the UK's history have sold more than 2 million copies, and Boney M.'s rendition of the song continues to rank among the top 10 best-selling singles of all time.


Lyrics of Rivers of Babylon by Boney M


By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion

 

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion

 

When the wicked

Carried us away in captivity

Required from us a song

Now how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land

 

When the wicked

Carried us away in captivity

Requiring of us a song

Now how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land

 

Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart

Be acceptable in thy sight here tonight

 

Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart

Be acceptable in thy sight here tonight

 

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion

 

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down

Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion

 

By the rivers of Babylon (dark tears of Babylon)

There we sat down (You got to sing a song)

Ye-eah we wept, (Sing a song of love)

When we remembered Zion. (Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah)

 

By the rivers of Babylon (Rough bits of Babylon)

There we sat down (You hear the people cry)

Ye-eah we wept, (They need their God)

When we remembered Zion. (Ooh, have the power)


Release Date

1978

Songwriter/s

Brent Dowe, Trevor McNaughton, Frank Farian, Reyam

Producer/s

Frank Farian

Label/s

Hansa (FRG), Sire (US), Atlantic (UK/AUS)

Other Songs

bottom of page