“‘River’ expresses regret at the end of a relationship…but it’s also about being lonely at Christmas time…A Christmas song for people who are lonely at Christmas! We need a song like that.” – Joni Mitchell
It was just in time for Christmas, Joni Mitchell debuted the first official music video for “River,” her wistful contribution to the Christmas songbook, taken from her landmark 1971 album Blue. Director Matvey Rezanov and Skazka Studios use animated watercolour painting to capture the song’s lonesome mood while paying tribute to Mitchell’s prolific creativity as a painter. Watch the video for “River” now.
Earlier this month, the 44th Kennedy Center Honors celebration was held in Washington D.C., where Mitchell was honoured for a lifetime of artistic achievement. Norah Jones, Ellie Goulding, Brandi Carlile, Brittany Howard, and Herbie Hancock all paid tribute to Mitchell at the Honors Gala with performances of her songs. A two-hour primetime special featuring highlights from the Honors Gala was broadcast earlier this week on CBS and is now available on-demand from Paramount+.
At a White House reception honouring the recipients of the 44th Kennedy Center Honors, President Joe Biden praised Mitchell’s music. “Joni, your words and melodies touch the deepest parts of our soul…And she does it by letting us in, by sharing what’s deeply personal and yet universal. It’s why millions of people will listen to her songs and feel they were written just for them. You’re a master at your craft.”
Additionally, Mitchell’s boxed set, Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) has been nominated for the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album. It is the 17th Grammy nomination Mitchell has received since her first in 1969. To date, she has won nine Grammy Awards. That could change on Monday, January 31 when the 64th Annual Grammy Awards show will be broadcast live on CBS.
A few days before the show, the Recording Academy will honour Mitchell as its 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year during a star-studded event on January 29. Jon Baptiste, Black Pumas, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, Mickey Guyton, Herbie Hancock, Graham Nash, Maggie Rogers, and James Taylor are among the artists set to perform at the show, which will raise funds for MusiCares’ charitable programs and relief efforts.
It’s been an eventful 2021 for Mitchell. Accolades and appreciation flowed for her music, especially her masterpiece, Blue, which turned 50 in the summer of 2021. To mark the occasion, Rhino released Blue 50 (Demos & Outtakes), a digital EP with five previously unreleased recordings from the making of Blue, including an alternate take of “River.”
Those songs were released again this October as part of Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971) containing nearly six hours of Mitchell’s unreleased home, studio, and live recordings covering the period of her first four studio albums.
The collection follows Mitchell through one of the most creative times of her career and uncovers several unreleased originals, including a recording Jimi Hendrix made in 1968 of Mitchell’s show in Ottawa, a recording of her acclaimed debut at Carnegie Hall on February 1, 1969, and concert at the Paris Theatre in London on October 29, 1970, that was broadcast on the BBC and featured singer-songwriter James Taylor joining Mitchell to perform with her during the second half of the show.