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Carly Simon – Let the River Run

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To quote Patrick Juvet, I love America. And to quote Madonna, I love New York. For a person from a small town in Scotland, it was a place I’d only ever experienced through film, television and pop music. So when I first visited it in 1999, I made a long list of places to see and things to do based on everything I’d grown up watching and listening to. And then I made a CD of all the tunes that would give me goosebumps while standing in the actual location they referred to – because everything is better with a soundtrack, isn’t it?

God it was brilliant. I stood on Broadway with Odyssey‘s Native New Yorker ringing through my ears. I hovered outside Rhoda‘s apartment on East 84th Street listening to the theme tune. I pretended to be distracted by something in a shop window on Fifth Avenue while the theme from Cagney and Lacey played just for me. But best of all was standing right at the front of the Staten Island Ferry looking towards the Manhattan skyline with Carly Simon‘s Let the River Run blaring in my headphones. Reader, I wept. And I sang out loud. In that moment I was Working Girl, and I didn’t care who was looking because I was busy having one of the most brilliant moments of my life.

Many songs have the power to reduce me to tears – probably rather too many – but few have the ability to do it while simultaneously making me feel like my heart is going to burst out of my chest with uncontainable happiness. Let the River Run does it every time. Is it the colossal, relentless beat planting you squarely inside this glorious urban jungle? Is it the astonishing vocal that sees Carly soaring to the furthest reaches of her voice with power and grace and beauty? Is it the lyric, a hymn to New York and to potential itself? (“Come run with me now / The sky is the colour of blue / You’ve never even seen / In the eyes of your lover.”) It is all of these things, and if I had my way it would be the national anthem.

Sometimes the problem with film theme songs is that they never achieve critical mass – with people going to see a movie over a matter of weeks, not enough buy it at any one time to push it inside the top 40. Working Girl was a hit, but it wasn’t a blockbuster of, say, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves proportions, so while Let the River Run spent seven weeks floating about the lower reaches of the UK chart – longer than some top 10 hits of the period – it climbed no higher than no.79. Much the same was true for America, where it became Carly’s last solo hit on the Hot 100 at no.49. I really don’t know a single person around my age who doesn’t adore it, but for many of us, if you couldn’t buy it on the singles wall in Woolworths, you couldn’t buy it at all.

Thankfully, commercial failure didn’t prevent Carly Simon‘s finest moment from winning an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy, so if there was a sting felt from chart under-performance, presumably the statuettes soothed it. But ultimately, a song’s true worth is in what it means to people. And for me, no song represents limitless possibility better than Let the River Run. It’s there for me every time I start a new job, on every great day and on every bad one when I need picking up from the floor. Thank you Carly.

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Entered chart: 08/04/1989

Chart peak: 79

Weeks on chart: 7

Who could sing this today and have a hit? I kind of don’t want to give it to anyone else, but I can imagine Florence Welch raising the roof with this.

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