19 December 2016

19: River

Sometimes I live in a fog. Really, it wasn't until very recently - like weeks ago when my brother sent me the Spotify playlist of Pitchfork's 50 best Christmas tunes - that I had any idea that Joni Mitchell's River had kind of entered the Christmas music canon. And honestly, I'm not sure that it belongs. Well, it starts and ends with a minor key riff on Jingle Bells, and it begins and ends with lyrics about Christmas:

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace

But it isn't really about Christmas, and it's certainly not terribly happy, and when I cued up the version by Madeleine Peyroux and k.d. lang, my sister burst into tears and I had to turn it off.

So, I'm not entirely sure why I'm including it at all, except that that Peyroux/lang cover is gorgeous.

Me being me, I had to poke around on the tubes. Despite finding a Washington Post article titled How a ‘thoroughly depressing’ Joni Mitchell song became a Christmas classic, I am still rather mystified. It seems awfully reductive to assign a song to the Christmas canon simply because it mentions Christmas.

But I am embracing the flow of that frozen river.


allison said...

I listen to it all year long, but it's on Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong, so it goes on my Christmas playlist, along with Bittersweet Eve and various other sad songs. This time of the year is bittersweet at the best of times, so I like the mix. Next: do you think Die Hard is a Christmas movie? :)

Veronica said...

I love Robert Downey Jr.'s version. The holiday season magnifies every emotion, including melancholy and heartache, and so I like the sad songs as well as the "beautiful" ones.

Heide Estes said...

I've always liked the Indigo Girls cover.