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River (Joni Mitchell song)

Song by Joni Mitchell from the album Blue
Released June 1971
Genre Folk
Length 4:00
Label Reprise
Writer Joni Mitchell
Producer Joni Mitchell
Blue track listing
"This Flight Tonight"
"A Case of You"

"River" is a song by Joni Mitchell, from her 1971 album Blue. Although never released as a single, it has become one of Mitchell's most famous songs.


  • Overview 1
  • Cover versions 2
    • References 2.1
  • External links 3


In the song, Mitchell ruminates on the recent breakup of a romantic relationship. Christmas is nearing, and Mitchell longs to escape her emotional bonds, openly wishing "I wish I had a river / I could skate away on", a river so long she "would teach my feet to fly." Furthermore, Mitchell's Canadian past is reflected upon, as her current warm (presumably Californian) climate does not offer her that ice or that chance. Keeping with the Christmas theme of the lyrics, the arrangement of the original song and of many other cover version, starts with a theme reminiscent of "Jingle Bells", and this theme figures several times throughout the accompaniment.

The song is used in the 2000 film Almost Famous, the 2003 film Love Actually and in episodes of Alias, thirtysomething, The Wonder Years, Ally McBeal, New Girl and ER. There are also numerous discussions of Mitchell's songs by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the 1998 movie You've Got Mail.

Cover versions

Although merely set near Christmas time, rather than being about Christmas, the song has become something of a modern Christmas standard. "River" is the second-most widely covered of songs in Mitchell's oeuvre (432 recordings, behind only "Both Sides, Now"),[1] frequently appearing on albums of Christmas music by pop, folk and jazz artists.

Artists who have performed the song include Cindy Alexander, Tori Amos, Michael Ball, Sara Bareilles, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Tom Barman, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Michelle Branch, Kathy Brier, Betty Buckley, Nick Buzz, Rosanne Cash, Charlotte Church, Holly Cole, Shawn Colvin, Allison Crowe, Robert Downey, Jr., Elisa and Terra Naomi, Lara Fabian, Catherine Feeny, Renée Fleming, Liam Frost, Guy Garvey, Cee Lo Green, Angie Hart & Tim Freedman, Heart, Herbie Hancock (featuring Corinne Bailey Rae), Indigo Girls, Ben Jelen, Ronan Keating, Amy Kuney, k.d. lang, Halie Loren, Rebecca Luker, Barry Manilow, Aimee Mann, Idina Menzel, Kate Miller-Heidke, Sarah McLachlan, Lea Michele on Glee, Grace Notes, Beth Orton, Overboard, Sam Palladio, Marti Pellow, Hana Pestle, Madeleine Peyroux, Rose Ranger, Ginny Reilly, Dianne Reeves, Linda Ronstadt on A Merry Little Christmas, Salyu, Janis Siegel, Sister Hazel, Sixpence None the Richer, The Swingle Singers, Angus Stone, James Taylor, Rosie Thomas, Tracey Thorn, Travis, Dave Van Ronk, Hayley Westenra, Rita Wilson, Rachael Yamagata, Lisa Hannigan, and Peter White (musician).

On the 2007 album A Tribute to Joni Mitchell James Taylor changes the intro from "Jingle Bells" to "Good King Wenceslas".


  1. ^ [1] Joni Undercover: Most Recorded Songs by Other Artists, at Joni Mitchell's official site

External links

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