|Song by Joni Mitchell|
|from the album Blue|
The song is about the recent breakup of a romantic relationship, with the singer longing to escape her emotional bonds as they are painful to her. It is thought to be inspired by Mitchell's 1968-1970 relationship with Graham Nash. Although the song is merely set near Christmas time, rather than being about Christmas, it has become something of a modern Christmas standard. "River" is the second-most widely recorded song in Mitchell's oeuvre (432 recordings, behind only "Both Sides, Now"), frequently appearing on albums of Christmas music by pop, folk and jazz artists.
The piano accompaniment to the vocal borrows heavily from the tune to the nineteenth century winter song "Jingle Bells".
It was covered by Barry Manilow in his 2002 album A Christmas Gift of Love with only one verse change involving a gender flip. It charted as a single at No. 17 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary charts. Sarah McLachlan also covered it on her 2006 album Wintersong and released it as a single. Her cover charted at No. 71 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 8 on the Adult Contemporary charts.
- "Joni Mitchell - Joni Undercover". jonimitchell.com. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
- "Sweet Inspiration: Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash". The Flower and the Vine. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
- "River - Barry Manilow - Song Info - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
- "Wintersong - Sarah McLachlan - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
- "Sarah McLachlan". billboard.com. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
- "Soul Music - River". BBC Radio 4. 19 December 2018.