Billy Joel




The River of Dreams

Billy Joel The River of Dreams | His last album, his last song

billy joel the river of dreams

After ‘River of Dreams‘, his 12th album, Billy Joel never released another pop album. A lot has to do with the song of the same name, ‘The River of Dreams‘, which appeared to him in a dream. Discover the beautiful story behind a timeless classic.

Billy Joel The River of Dreams

Trembol | Story behind The River of Dreams by Billy Joel

Billy Joel was already a star when I was born. I knew little about him when he was releasing the album ‘River of Dreams‘, which includes the song The River of Dreams, but that didn’t matter, at first listen it made me get up and sing along 😺

Of course, I wasn’t the only one, younger people were moved by the mix of gospel and spirituals (more in the Technical Note), while those like Joel in their 40s and 50s were deeply touched by the transformational message of The River of Dreams. You know, going through dark nights and crossing rivers that lead to personal reunion.

Unlike many of his previous albums, ‘River of Dreams’ had a more serious tone, perhaps because he wrote it while he was feuding with his manager and ex-brother-in-law, Frank Weber, who embezzled millions from Billy Joel.

The fact is that if there is one word to describe The River of Dreams‘ it is “exceptional.

The River of Dreams meaning

Billy Joel is an atheist, even though he grew up in a Jewish home, having also been close to Christianity as a young man ⛪ Perhaps that induced some of the spirituality and religious touches in the song, like when he sings…

Through the valley of fear, to a river so deep

…this verse is a reference to Psalm 23:4 – “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil“. Joel also says that the river is a religious image. The origin of the song is a dream in which Joel was walking, as it says right in the first sentence:

In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep

Joel said that the next morning in the shower 🚿 a gospel melody came to him and he knew he had to write a song about that dream. The River of Dreams is a reaffirmation of spirituality, a new belief in something that is much deeper and more substantial than the things Billy had faith in before.

Billy Joel explains the meaning of ‘River of Dreams’

Billy Joel in the middle of the night

Billy Joel (Official website image)

The River of Dreams meaning

Billy Joel (Screenshot from The River of Dreams video)

story billy joel the river of dreams

Billy Joel The River of Dreams (Official website image)


I lost faith in my own judgement, in a lot of old values, this is a lot of what the dilemma was in this album, a lost of faith in a lot of things and the search to have it reaffirmed.


Perdí la fe en mi propio juicio, en un montón de viejos valores, ese fue el dilema que plantea el álbum, una pérdida de fe en un montón de cosas y la búsqueda de  la reafirmación.

🎵 Find more amazing stories behind the greatest songs ever

Why was ‘River of Dreams‘ the last album Billy Joel made?

River of Dreams album

Billy Joel River of Dreams album cover

Best known for his breakthrough hit, 1973’s ‘Piano Man‘, Billy has charted 33 songs in the US Top 40, won 6 Grammys, amassed over 150 million albums sold worldwide, and is the 3rd best-selling solo artist in America.

River of Dreams, released in 1993, was his twelfth studio album and for Joel it was the closing of a circle. It was his most personal album, he left everything he had in it, and although it sold a more than respectable 4 million copies, for Billy it didn’t get the recognition it deserved. In any case, Joel always intended it to be his last album.

Joel joked that The Beatles had released 12 albums, as he had, and everyone was fine with that.

Billy Joel, in his words, had told all he wanted to tell and was no longer interested in the music industry. He continues to compose classical and instrumental music mainly, as on his album ‘Fantasies & Delusions‘, released in 2001, although we have not had any new Pop-Rock material from Billy Joel 😭

He does, however, perform live very often. In 2014 he started a record-breaking residency at Madison Square Garden. He plays there once a month. By 2022 he had already played 87 sold out shows.

You can’t miss ⭐️ The best parts of The River of Dreams

1. The song starts off on a high note, with a falsetto and a gospel choir!

2.He doesn’t want to look any further, he has found what to believe in again.

3. The bridge ends in a silence to introudce the last great chorus.

This is what it says | Billy Joel The River of Dreams

Englihs lyrics


In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross

And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep
And I’ve been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole

I don’t know why I go walking at night
But now I’m tired and I don’t want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn’t take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is that I’ve been looking for

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To a river so deep
I know I’m searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night

I’m not sure about a life after this
God knows I’ve never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That runs to the promised land

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Though the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night



En mitad de la noche
camino en sueños
desde las montañas de la fe
hasta un río muy profundo
debo estar buscando algo
algo sagrado que perdí
pero el río es muy ancho
y es demasiado difícil cruzarlo

Y aunque sé que el río es ancho
camino cada tarde y me quedo en la orilla
e intento cruzar hasta el lado opuesto
para poder al fin encontrar lo que he estado buscando

En mitad de la noche
camino en sueños
atravesando el valle del miedo
hasta un río muy profundo
y he estado buscando algo
arrebatado de mi alma
algo que nunca debí perder
algo que alguien robó

No sé por qué voy caminando por la noche
y ahora estoy cansado y no quiero andar más
espero que no me lleve el resto de mi vida
encontrar lo que he estado buscando

En mitad de la noche
camino en sueños
atravesando la selva de la duda
hasta un río muy profundo
sé que estoy buscando algo
algo tan indefinido
que solo puede ser visto
por los ojos de los ciegos
en mitad de la noche

No estoy seguro de la vida tras esto
Dios sabe que yo nunca he sido espiritual
bautizado por el fuego, me adentro en el río
que fluye hacia la tierra prometida

En mitad de la noche
camino en sueños
atravesando el desierto de la verdad
hasta el río muy profundo
todos terminamos en el mar
todos empezamos en los arroyos
a todos nos lleva consigo
el río de los sueños
en mitad de la noche

Songwriters: Billy Joel | The River of Dreams Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group| Background Image: Billy Joel official website

Did you know...?

The cover of the album and the single ‘The River of the Night’ was painted by supermodel and Joel’s 2nd wife, Christie Brinkley.

Billy confessed that he was very worried about how he was going to tell her if he didn’t like it, but luckily, he loved it 😅


The River of Dreams reached No. 3 on the US charts and the album was No. 1, as well as the best Joel’s single of the decade (the 90s).

In the video for ‘The River of Dreams‘ (around 2:36) we can see Billy Joel’s wife Christie Brinkley, whom he divorced in 1994, and their daughter Alexa Ray Joel, who was 7 years old at the time.

Much more | 3 Versions and 1 plagiarism

The River of Dreams live at the 1994 Grammys

Notice how Billy Joel stops in the middle of the performance to say that commercials are coming, criticising the fact that Frank Sinatra’s thank you speech was cut off earlier for that reason.

3 main versions of The River of Dreams have been released:

  • Two versions include a bridge section containing a piano interlude paralleling Joel’s melody from his song ‘Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)‘, from the same album.
  • The third version appeared on the original single and was called ‘The River of Dreams (Percapella Mix)‘.

In 1993, Gary Zimmerman, sued Billy Joel for $10M, claiming that ‘The River of Dreams’ was based on his 1986 song ‘Nowhere Land‘. Joel strongly denied it and the lawsuit was dropped the following year 👨‍⚖️

Technical Note | Billy Joel The River of Dreams

The River of Dreams has 2 main musical lines with very clear ethnic features:

  1. Gospel music: Reflected in the choir that accompanies Billy Joel throughout the song.
  2. Spirituals: The term ‘spirituals’ refers to songs with religious texts created by African slaves in America. Over time these spirituals evolved into signature music in the United States and evolved into such well-known genres as blues and gospel.

✔️ The last curiosity is that near the end of the song (minute 3:45) Joel can be heard singing a song called Gloria‘ by The Cadillacs.

🎼 Chords and key of The Rhythm of the Night

  • The song is in G Major
  • It follows almost entirely one of the most common chord wheels: I (G) – IV (C) – V (D) – I (G)
river dreams middle night

Billy Joel ‘The River of Dreams’ cover

billy joel the river of dreams
billy joel the river of dreams

Do you like The River of Dreams? Tell us ♥️

  1. Miriam Prescott

    Wow, what a fantastic tribute to the legendary Billy Joel and his timeless hit “River of Dreams”! This article captures the essence of the song perfectly, highlighting its powerful lyrics, mesmerizing melody, and Joel’s unmatched talent. It’s great to see this classic being celebrated and appreciated on such a platform. Thank you for reminding us of the sheer brilliance of Billy Joel’s music!

  2. Amy

    Never read the words as a child but here I am at 40 and just wow. I had a seizure In 2020 and I died that day and saw God. This song hits!!!! I love it!!!


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