Song of the Day #80: ‘Broken Arrow’ by Robbie Robertson

It’s funny how there are some songs that sort of take over your listening life for a time and mean a whole lot to you, but then a few years later they drop completely off the map.

I think this happens to me somewhat often because I’m an album guy. I don’t really listen to individual songs, even in the age of the iPod. I play full albums, start to finish, almost without exception.

So take an album like Robbie Robertson’s self-titled solo debut… it’s ok, maybe a little better than ok, but it wasn’t something I found myself playing very often. Or at all, really. So when I did a massive review of my CD collection a few years ago, I sold that album back.

But in the process, I sold my only copy of ‘Broken Arrow,’ which is a friggin’ awesome song. It’s a powerful love ballad with a strong sense of mysticism in its lyrics and sound. Robertson is part Mohawk and weaves that mythology into a lot of his music. In this song, the “broken arrow” and “bottle of rain” are symbolic offerings given by somebody seeking a peaceful and lasting bond.

Rod Stewart butchered, er, covered this song and his version is probably much better known than Robertson’s, which is a shame. Nothing against Rod Stewart, but why is it he always has hits covering music that’s so much better in its original form? At least he has good taste in songwriters.

Anyway, writing these Song of the Day posts has reminded an album guy like me that I’m really missing out on a lot. Perhaps I’ll create a playlist of all these songs and burn them onto albums of their own.

7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #80: ‘Broken Arrow’ by Robbie Robertson

  1. Dana says:

    well, in the age of ITunes, you should have put the song into your collection before chucking the album, but the good news is that it can now be yours again for 99 cents. I have always thought this song was special. And the fact that it was so much weaker in the hands of Stewart shows the value of a unique and interesting voice and, perhaps the necessary gravitas of the songwriter singing his own creation.

  2. Amy says:

    Not sure you remember this (or even knew it?), but I went through a period of near obsession with this song. It was after it appeared in an episode of thirtysomething, which focused on Melissa and Lee. The lengths I went through (in a pre-Google era) to discover the song were impressive. In the end, I wound up with Robbie Robertson’s album on cassette. Another example of the power of music when effectively weaved into another medium. Anyway, thanks for choosing one of my all-time favorite songs.

  3. Clay says:

    Yes, I’m pretty sure I discovered it through your obsession.

  4. Kerrie Rueda says:

    I discovered it during Amy’s obsession, too. I remember listening to this song in Gainesville – over and over. I don’t know why, but I associate this song with Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” I guess I was listening to them both during the same period of time.
    Anyway, thanks for the trip down memory lane and for reintroducing me to such a beautiful song. I never did care for Rod Stewart’s version…

  5. darylbecker says:

    Yo, this is a great song and post. Nice blog.

  6. JB says:

    I don’t think any of that is right. A broken arrow refers to a nuclear disaster and of course then the water, bottle of rain gets tainted in this case possibly and I’m not Robbie the apocalypse there he goes moving across the water, return of the lord… Song was written during the Cold War era of I recall correctly

  7. Stuart. Spare Room Records says:

    Had it not been for Rods version I’d have never heard the original. I like both versions of a beautiful song. I’ve even had a go at myself!

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