Without any doubt Joni Mitchell is one of the greatest songwriters ever. River, on the face of it, is such a simple song, just a piano and voice. No lavish orchestrations, no band driving the song, just Joni Mitchell playing piano and singing one of her greatest songs.
The melody and lyrics of River lift this song into the realms of genius and it all sounds so deceptively easy, but very few composers could ever have written such a hauntingly beautiful song. Little wonder that her peers were in such awe of her.
The way Joni Mitchell blends a Christmas-like melody into the melancholy of the subject matter and main melody is outstanding. Her longing for a frozen river to skate away on harks back to her Canadian birthplace rather than the Laurel Canyon she was living in at the time.
If you’ve never listened to Blue, the album this song is taken from, then do yourself a favour and listen now. If you haven’t listened to Blue for a while go back and revisit it. Either way your life will be better.