Released in 1971 and produced by Reprise records, river is an intensely emotional contemporary folk song about heartbreak. Written solely by Joni Mitchell for her album ‘Blue’ the song is reminiscent of Christmas time although lyrically it has little relationship to Christmas. (Hopper, 2012)
Instead of using a typical verse/chorus style this song is written using different sections – A/B/C etc. The line ‘I wish I had a river’ is the overlying focus point throughout the song and is used throughout. Employing an easily recognizable common time, the song although played at a slow to medium tempo sounds as though it is moving faster due to the ornate piano part. Using the key of C major allows a free flowing melody and helps Joni to craft this easily identifiable four-minute piece.
Using a unique A/B/C structure, Joni doesn’t focus on a verse chorus, but more over a consistent lyrical theme throughout each section. The A section is repeated two and a half times. This is important as the A section contains the line ‘I wish I had a river’ the most out of all the sections therefore through repetition the main lyrical theme becomes more prominent. The motif of the song is an arranged version of the classic Christmas carol ‘jingle bells’. This is most prominent in the introduction however comes back in the outro in a less noticeable form. As the song somberly comes to a close the tempo gradually slows down, before finishing on an eerie unresolved chord. (D7 omit fsharp)
Section| Bars| Length(min,sec)|
Intro/Motif| 7| 00:16|
A1| 16| 00:36|
B1| 10| 00:24|
C1| 7| 00:18|
A2| 16| 00:36|
B2| 12| 00:28|
C2| 7| 00:16|
A1 reprise| 10| 00:20|
Outro/Motif| 16| 00:45|
As Joni Mitchell is a notable piano player this song is written for piano and in the original recording the instrumentation comprises only of acoustic piano and a solitary vocal line. The way the piano and vocal melody...