For some reason I have always been drawn to and try to write songs that could tear a soul apart. Songs that take the blame for failure. Songs that reference melody and or lyrics from other songs to make the point dig in even deeper. Songs that long for a simpler time, as a child or in a dream maybe. It was not until recently when it was the fear of this midwest boy that the world might loose one of the finest songwriters ever that I realized that I have been trying to write, “River,” by Joni Mitchell over and over and over again.
This song might single-handedly be the reason more people commit suicide around Christmas then any other time of year! Radio stations started playing this song because of it’s musical reference to, “Jingle Bells,” and it’s Christmas-themed lyrics. But like the ice on a Canadian river this relationship has cracked, and is broken. Event though the world is, “Singing songs, or Joy and Peace,” Joni is so sad, she wants a river so long she can skate away on and teach her feet to fly.
Joni paints images with honesty and openness like no one else on this song. Her use of colors can only come from a woman who has spent as much time on a canvas as on a tape machine. She uses colors in so many of her songs, I love the way she talks about California, like the man she has just broke up with, she will be leaving him soon as well, “But it don’t snow here, It stays pretty green, I’m going to make a lot of money, Then I’m going to quit this crazy scene.” The juxtaposition of a California Christmas and a Canadian Christmas is kinda the way she describes her man in the song. Like the warm weather of California, he puts her at ease, and “He loved me so naughty made me weak in the knees.” But she is a little more like a cold Canadian winter, She’s, “so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad, Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby, That I ever had.” I love how she is taking all the blame in the song.. She made her baby cry, she made her baby say good-bye, not many songs out there put so much fierce blame internally. The brightest, most hopeful moments in the song are darkened by bittersweet moments of sorrow and loneliness.
This is life, this is real, this is beauty, and this is one of the finest song’s ever crafted.. I will keep trying to write this song, a song I could skate away on, and teach my feet to fly.