"The River" became a centerpiece of shows on some Springsteen tours. On the 'Born in the U.S.A.' tour, it was often preceded by a long, intense story from Springsteen about his battles with his father growing up, that would sometimes conclude in a good ending and sometimes not; the silence after the story would then be interrupted by the start of the harmonica part.
I come from down in the valley
Where mister when you're young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Me and Mary we met in high school