Joni Mitchell has released the first official music video for her classic song “River,” a track that originally appeared on 1971’s milestone album Blue.
“‘River’ expresses regret at the end of a relationship,” Mitchell said. “But it’s also about being lonely at Christmas time. … A Christmas song for people who are lonely at Christmas! We need a song like that.” You can watch the new video below.
Mitchell was recently honored at the 2021 Kennedy Center Honors with a lifetime-achievement award, where various artists paid tribute with covers of some of her most beloved songs. Ellie Goulding sang “Big Yellow Taxi,” while Brittany Howard and Herbie Hancock teamed up for a rendition of “Both Sides Now.” Norah Jones performed a medley of songs that included “Help Me,” and Brandi Carlile, who performed Blue in its entirety last month at a special Carnegie Hall show and has developed a friendship with Mitchell over the past few years, performed “River.”
That song “redefined the way people look at Christmas music,” Carlile said of “River” at her Carnegie concert. “There needed to be a song that embraces the sorrow of Christmas.”
“Joni, your words and melodies touch the deepest parts of our soul,” President Joe Biden said in his Kennedy Center remarks on Dec. 5. The ceremony was broadcast last night on CBS. “Her gift — she touches the range of human nature and the sense of struggle and how we overcome and how we love.”
Mitchell will be recognized next month by the Recording Academy as its 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year at a ceremony that takes place on Jan. 29 and includes appearances from Carlile, Graham Nash, James Taylor, Jon Baptiste, Black Pumas, Leon Bridges, Mickey Guyton and others.
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Individuality set her apart from other singer-songwriters in the ’70s.