When a Songwriter Got Her First Song

May 12, 2016


We moved to Richmond maybe like the summer of 2004, and within maybe six months one of our neighbors who we hung out with was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was a horrible, painful thing—she had a young daughter, eight years old.


Nancy Rives | Photo by Michael K. Lease

Right after the funeral—maybe it was a day or two after—we were gathered like we do on our block, at their house. And after we went back home, Chip, my neighbor, called me and said ‘Listen, I want all the women on the block to come over and try on her clothes and shoes or see if there’s anything you want.’ And after I hung up I told my husband, ‘I’m horrified, I can’t do this, she just died.’ And we all went and picked things out, and it was such an emotional experience.

But I remember sometime in the night getting a song about all of her pretty dresses.

As it unfolded, I had to go to a neighbor who played guitar and say, ‘Jeff, show me how to play this song.’ I knew the tune, but I didn’t know what chords to use. It was a very sad song.

All your pretty dresses were laid out in order; we’re crossing some border, it doesn’t seem right.

And the chorus—I got somebody to help me make the chorus not so sad.

Isn’t is just like you to just keep on giving to those of us living down here below.

So it was a song to her, so I called it ‘Song for Linda.’

Then after that I kept getting songs, and I think I really embarrassed my two sons, who were like middle school- and high school-aged, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, Mom, did you write another song?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I can’t help it!’

And then I met somebody that said they wanted a song for this event called the River City Saunter. And I said, ‘Really? What do you want it to be about?’ And she said about Richmond, and so that became another song that I wrote about Richmond.

So the chorus was really simple:

Do the River City Saunter, take time to wander, history awaits you, the James River will take you…

Hear a full version of River City Saunter here: