River

It’s coming on christmas,
They’re cutting down trees,
And putting up reindeer,
Singing songs of joy and peace.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
But it don’t snow here,
It stays pretty green.
Gonna make a lot of money,
Then I’ll quit this crazy scene.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
Oh, I wish I had a river so long.
I’d teach my feet to fly high.
Yeah, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
I made my baby cry.

She tried hard to help me.
Yeah, she put me at ease.
She loved me so naughty,
Made me weak at the knees.
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
I’m so hard to handle.
I’m selfish and I’m sad.
Now I’ve lost the best baby
That I ever had.
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
I wish I had a river so long
I’d teach my feet to fly.
Oh I wish I had a river.
I made my baby say goodbye.

It’s coming on christmas,
They’re cutting down trees,
And putting up reindeer,
Singing songs of joy and peace.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on.

I think that the reason I prefer this song to other Christmas songs is that it portrays the Christmas that I know.
In my hometown the bar owners all knew that there was one person in town who’d be willing to work on Christmas Day, and they’d regularly hire me from 10am through til 4pm on that day for what amounted to triple time. Including tips I could usually walk away with a couple of hundred pounds on Christmas Day.
However, those six hours were usually the most depressing of the year as I’d see the side of Christmas that is normally hidden away behind all the decorations and gift buying. I’d see the people far away from home, the people without families, the people in the sheer depths of despair.
This is a wonderful time of year for most of us. We get to buy presents and write lists to Santa. But for many people this just enhances the pain they’re feeling. And this is the side of Christmas I’ve seen for most of my life. The side that this song captures perfectly.

So goes my all time favourite Christmas song, Joni Mitchell‘s River. I think what defines this song for me is that it’s obviously set at Christmas time yet it isn’t the usual sugar-coated crap that we get force fed almost constantly at this time of year. River starts out with a piano extract from Jingle Bells, which is repeated throughout the song keeping the theme of Christmas ever present. As the lyrics describe typical Christmas events like decorations and carols they push through the despair that so many of us feel at this time of year; the feeling of loss that so many people hide throughout this season. There’s real pain in the lyrics, which is usually portrayed audibly by most of the people who’ve covered it.

While Joni released this on her 1971 album, Blue (an album that has consistently been named one of the best albums ever) and performed it so well that so many others have wanted to cover it, I personally don’t find it to be a particularly feminine song, and don’t feel it suits her voice. Hmmm, that sounds a little strange, doesn’t it? Basically I mean that it’s a song that seems better with a male voice providing the lyrics, in my opinion at least. As such I’ve not only provided a link to download the original version of the song, but I’m also giving you guys a link to my favourite version of the song, sung by Robert Downey Junior, surprisingly, originally for a Christmas special on Ally McBeal. The guy just has the right voice for the song and seems to understand it well enough to put the right emotional inflection on the lyrics.

Anyway, that’s my favourite Christmas song. Give it a listen and it may just reach you too. It’s perfect for when you’re fed up of all the overly cheerful forced Christmas spirit, so I suggest playing it from October onwards next year.

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134 thoughts on “River

  1. I've never heard of this song before, but it's nice to hear some new ones, Christmas songs aren't always "Rocking around the Christmas tree" and "Last Christmas". I know Christmas is very hard for some people emotionally because if you're lonely the Christmas sort of increases the focus on the loneliness, making it worse. :down:

  2. Beautiful song Mik. It is nice to have words here, so I can follow what he sings, otherwise I will lose the real sadness that lies beneath 🙂

  3. It's not really Christmassy, Clint. It's just… Sad. The Robert Downey Jr one, anyways. He puts so much pain into it. It's just… Beautiful.

  4. I'll need to listen to it sometime..I'm not into Christmassy songs at all but will give it a listen when I've got the data :p

  5. Listen to it anyway my South African generals. It'll help drown out the sounds of our army destroying the world.Fan, how long have you had Santa looming over you?

  6. Don't understand what you mean about links and images? Remember, this theme doesn't work in shitty old IE yet, and probably never will.

  7. I have just checked it in IE. IE cuts the image of the phone on the top along with The Dark Furie label. When I scroll, it moves along with comments.

  8. I can't stand IE. When I first started my online classes, I was stuck using it, but the college finally got around to integrating Opera. :yes: If I find any sites that aren't complient, I usually send them a note to tell them Opera's better. 😀

  9. Is unfortunately stuck with "shitty IE" at the moment – wanting a MAC – or someone to tell me how to reprogram my computer for Linux.

  10. Gotcha. You said you were stuck with IE though? For Linux you should be able to get a disc online cheaply, then just wipe your PC and put the new OS in. Instructions should be on the site.

  11. One thing though, when I come to your blog form my watch list to a post that isn't new it goes to the Comment box instead of the last comment.

  12. The Opera browser. "The fact that I couldn't make it disappear", make what disappear? The bug or the top bar? The top bar does disappear. I think it's cool.

  13. It's been mentioned on the post about this theme. :p Just the way browsers handle links. I can't change it without reprogramming the entire site. :devil:

  14. Thanks for the link, Mic. :up: 🙂 I've been reading everything on it ever since. I've got 2.62 GB of files on my hard drive to back up, and does Linux work with MSOffice software, or is there a work-around? I've got to have that particular software for my classes. :down: One more question, how do you partitition a drive?

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