There are few artists who can come close to the wide-ranging influence Joni Mitchell has had on the music world. As a songwriter, she was a whirlwind of literary lyricism and poetic moments of folkie joy. But often forgotten is Mitchell’s featherlight vocal poignancy, on her 1971 classic ‘River’.
The song will go down in history as one of Mitchell’s most beautiful—and that’s truly saying something. Its snowy setting has meant that the Blue track has always been a festive favourite.
The track is a wildly popular classic. It’s been recorded more times than any other of Mitchell’s compositions, having been recorded over 432. That said, nothing can really match the tender vulnerability that Mitchell brings to the song. It might well be something to do with ‘River’s origination.
About the recent breakup of a romantic relationship, the singer is in deep longing to escape her emotional bonds as they grow too painful to her. The song is thought to be inspired by Mitchell’s relationship with fellow musician Graham Nash.
By the end of 1970 Mitchell and Nash’s relationship had begun to deteriorate beyond recognition. Equally, at the same time, the singer was struggling to reconcile with her musical output. It culminated in one of the finest Christmas songs of all time. But while the songwriting is perfect, Mitchell’s vocal performance is utterly beautiful.
You can imagine our delight when we stumbled upon this isolated vocal track of Mitchell’s 1971 classic. It allows the sadness, frustration and pain of Mitchell’s protagonist to truly flourish.
Listen below to Joni Mitchell’s mesmerising isolated vocal on her classic song ‘River’.