The River Unbroken

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"The River Unbroken"
Dolly Parton The River Unbroken 1987 Single Cover.jpg
Single by Dolly Parton
from the album Rainbow
B-side "More Than I Can Say"
Released November 1987
Format 7", CD, Cassette
Genre Country, Pop
Length 3:56
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Darrell Brown, David Batteau
Producer(s) Steve "Golde" Goldstein
Dolly Parton singles chronology
"Those Memories of You"
"The River Unbroken"
"I Know You By Heart"
"Those Memories of You"
"The River Unbroken"
"I Know You By Heart"

"The River Unbroken" is a song by American singer-songwriter Dolly Parton. It was released as the lead single from her 1987 album Rainbow.[1]


Following Parton's move from RCA Victor to Columbia, "The River Unbroken" was Parton's first single release on her new record label contract. It was not the commercial success expected and at the time was Parton's lowest charting single on the American Country Chart.[2] "The River Unbroken" peaked at #63 on the American Billboard Hot Country Songs for a total of eight weeks,[3] after debuting at #82.[4] In Canada, the single peaked at #51 on the RPM Country Singles Chart for a total of two weeks,[5] after debuting at a lowly #58 in mid-January 1988.[6] On the Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart, the single fared better, peaking at #23 for a total of three weeks.[7]

The original plan was for Parton to alternate between releasing pop and country albums (rather than trying to combine the two styles on each album), but due to Rainbow's poor sales and tepid critical reception, the plan was quickly abandoned, and Parton focused on recording country material for the remainder of her association with the label.

The song was written by American songwriter/producer Darrell Brown and American singer-songwriter David Batteau. It was produced by Steve "Golde" Goldstein.[8]


The single was released in America and Canada via Columbia Records on 7" vinyl, and via CBS Records in the UK on 7" vinyl. It was later issued via Versailles on CD and cassette.[9] The single featured the Rainbow album track "More Than I Can Say" as the B-Side, which was written solely by Parton and produced by Goldstein.[10] An promotional 7" vinyl was also issued which featured "The River Unbroken" on both sides of the vinyl.[11]

The 7" vinyl release featured artwork, with a photograph of Parton posing, taken by Annie Leibovitz. It was taken during the same sessions as the photograph used for the Rainbow album cover.[1]

Following the song's original release as a single and on the Rainbow album, the song has appeared on three compilations. In 1995, it appeared on the Columbia various artists compilation Country Chartbusters.[12] CBS Records also added the song to the 1989 various artists compilation Les Plus Grands Moments Country - American Ballads.[13] The only Dolly Parton compilation it has featured on is the 2000 Sony Music Distribution release La Legende Country.[14]


The main form of promotion for the single was the song's music video.[15] The album, including the song, was promoted relentlessly, particularly on Parton's own ABC television variety hour Dolly, as much of the music on the album was highlighted on the show.[16] Shortly after the making of the video, Parton aired it on her Dolly show during Episode 13.[17]

In the December 26, 1987 issue of the Billboard Magazine, "The River Unbroken" was listed in 'The Clip List'. The music video had been added to VH1 (Video Hits One).[4]

Track listing[edit]

7" Single
  1. "The River Unbroken" - 3:56
  2. "More Than I Can Say" - 4:06
7" Single (Promo)
  1. "The River Unbroken" - 3:56
  2. "The River Unbroken" - 3:56
CD Single
  1. "The River Unbroken" - 3:56
  2. "More Than I Can Say" - 4:06
Cassette Single
  1. "The River Unbroken" - 3:56
  2. "More Than I Can Say" - 4:06

Cover versions[edit]

In 1989, American gospel singer Russ Taff recorded his own version of the song for his album The Way Home. [18] For the album, the song's co-writer Darrell Brown contributed background vocals and some production work.[19] The album was #1 on the American Top Contemporary Christian Chart.[20]

Critical reception[edit]

Barry Weber of Allmusic reviewed the Rainbow album and spoke of the song, stating "The album's leading singles, "The River Unbroken" and "Could I Have Your Autograph," are somewhat intriguing, but they're certainly not strong enough to survive the glossy, overtly polished production. Even Parton sounds somewhat distanced by the music, as her vocals seem lost and bored, almost like this record was made (and probably was, come to think of it) on a punch-in/punch-out routine schedule."[16]

In the 1997 book MusicHound Country: The Essential Album Guide, authors Brian Mansfield and Gary Graff spoke of the album and song, stating "An indication of the yawn-inducing material included inside (with the possible exception of "The River Unbroken") is Parton's reclining pose on the front cover."[21]

In the Philadelphia Inquirer issue of December 6, 1987, Ken Tucker, inquirer staff writer, reviewed the Rainbow album, stating "Dolly Parton's new album Rainbow is all the more impressive when you realize it was recorded even as she was putting together her now-embattled TV variety show. Here, her duet with Smokey Robinson, "I Know You by Heart," is dreamily good, while the first single from the album, The River Unbroken," has the firm assurance of a potential hit. This is easily Parton's most aesthetically successful non-country album - her work in pop and rock has never sounded more confident and good-natured."[22][23]

On December 20, 1987, Orlando Sentinel reviewed the album, with writer Dean Johnson stating "The Rainbow material is mainstream pop - with busy-ness and noisiness prevailing through most of the cuts; with persistent drumming marring the opening cut The River Unbroken."[24][25]

French website Yuzu Melodies reviewed the album in January 2007, with reviewer Boris Plantier stating "The songs are sometimes pleasant but the orchestration, often synthetic, is detestable. The appearances of Tom Scott on sax and Dan Huff on guitar change nothing. We note "Make Love Last," "Savin' It For You", "The River Unbroken" (for it sounds more authentic), and especially "I Know You By Heart", a beautiful duet with Smokey Robinson proves once country more than the voice and soul blend well."[26] The review later appeared on Asie News on April 4, 2011 as well.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1987) Peak
Canadian RPM Country Singles Chart 51
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Singles Chart[7][27] 23
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart[3] 63
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary Singles Chart 43


  • Lead Vocals, Harmony Vocals - Dolly Parton
  • Backing Vocals – Dolly Parton, Julia Waters, Maxine Waters, Richard Dennison
  • Acoustic Guitar – Waddy Wachtel
  • Slide Electric Guitar, Electric Guitar – Kevin Dukes
  • Bass – Bob Glaub
  • Synthesizer - Steve "Golde" Goldstein
  • Drum Programming - John Vigran, Steve "Golde" Goldstein
  • Producer - Steve "Golde" Goldstein
  • Executive Producer – Dolly Parton
  • Recorded By, Mixing – Richard Bosworth
  • Arrangers – Dolly Parton, Steve "Golde" Goldstein
  • Mastering – Bernie Grundman
  • Art Direction – Tony Lane, Nancy Donald
  • Photography – Annie Leibovitz


  1. ^ a b "Dolly Parton - Rainbow at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  2. ^ Dolly Parton (1946-01-19). "Dolly Parton - Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  3. ^ a b "Rainbow - Dolly Parton : Awards". AllMusic. 1987-12-19. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  4. ^ a b Billboard - Google Books. 1987-12-26. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  5. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  6. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  7. ^ a b "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  8. ^ "Dolly Parton - The River Unbroken / More Than I Can Say - CBS - UK - 651202 7". 45cat. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Dolly Parton - The River Unbroken (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  12. ^ Campbell, Al (1995-04-24). "Country Chartbusters [Sony] - Various Artists : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  13. ^ "Les Plus Grands Moments du Country - Various Artists : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  14. ^ "La Legende Country - Dolly Parton : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. 2000-01-17. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  15. ^ YouTube (2010-04-01). "Dolly Parton - The River Unbroken". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  16. ^ a b Weber, Barry (1987-12-19). "Rainbow - Dolly Parton : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  17. ^ "Dolly Parton River Unbroken Music Video on Dolly Show 1987/88 (Ep 13, Pt 5)". YouTube. 2012-02-18. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  18. ^ "Russ Taff - The Way Home (CD, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  19. ^ "The Way Home - Russ Taff : Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  20. ^ "The Way Home - Russ Taff : Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  21. ^ MusicHound country: the essential album guide - Brian Mansfield, Gary Graff - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  22. ^ "Non-country Album From Dolly Parton -". 1987-12-06. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Dolly Parton - Orlando Sentinel". 1987-12-20. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  25. ^ "Archives -". 1987-12-20. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  26. ^ "Dolly Parton - Rainbow (1987)". Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  27. ^ "Results - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2013-03-04.