I’ve always loved R.E.M and first discovered them through their first album, 1983’s Murmur. But I never heard “Nightswimming” until I was in a grocery store, and the track was nestled in between dreadful ’80s soft rock and adult contemporary.
I recognized Michael Stipe’s delicate croon but couldn’t make out the lyrics. The recurring word “swimming” was all I could hear. But it sounded like a gorgeous song. Once I got home, I googled “R.E.M swimming,” and “Nightswimming” appeared in the results. It came from the band’s 1992 release Automatic For The People, one of their best recordings.
With this illustration, it was more about mood than anything else. Stipe sings about the titular activity as some kind of solitary, almost lonely, ritual. The themes of aging and loss permeate the song as well as the album. Yet for all the melancholy, there’s also a sense of joy and excitement that comes from skinny-dipping at night. So I saw it fitting to feature one man swimming alone in a lake, with its vast emptiness reinforcing his sense of solitude.
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