‘It’s Coming on Christmas’

by Catherine DeAngelis

 

“I never wanted to be a star. I didn’t like entering a room with all eyes on me. I still don’t like the attention of a birthday party. I prefer Christmas, which is everybody’s holiday.”            Joni Mitchell

A  favorite time of year is when we have radio play that gives us the elegant, melodic and familiar voice of Canada’s Joni Mitchell as she sings us “River” over the air waves.  This song, written and originally performed by Joni Mitchell, captivates listeners to hear the song and even spoil us as we get to hear it sung by other various brilliant performances by Sarah McLachlan  and Robert Downey Jr.

The song beckons sentiments of being at home in the heart.

The lyrics can be interpreted in many different ways. It begs us to question, “is the song about Christmas, lost love or someone’s need for belongingness at a time of year when we are expected to give of ourselves, and to love unconditionally and forgivingly?”

SongsofaPrairieGirlCoverRiver comes from Mitchell’s famous Blue album recording, released June 1971, and added  to the  Songs of a Prairie Girl known as her last series of compilations.

In a special Canada CBC TV documentary about Joni Mitchell, we learn about her life and her music and her artwork.  A Woman of Heart and Mind: The Life and Times of Joni Mitchell   written and directed by Susan Lacy. Canadian-Born Joni Mitchell is one of the foremost singer/songwriters and poets of our time.  Her eclectic and unique body of work still touches us today as much as it did more than three decades ago. She has also led an equally fascinating and inspiring personal life.

Mitchell has come full circle from the days back when the Mariposa Folk Festival evolved Mitchell to a magnificent songwriter with a creative career that stemmed from her earlier childhood interests in painting, poetry, and music. She performed in Toronto’s downtown Yorkville coffeehouses such as the Penny Farthing and up to this day her songs and lyrics resonate with the same precision as ever before. Some of her very first songs like ‘Day After Day‘ are as inviting today as they were back then – Canadian Encyclopedia of Music.

Quotes by Joni Mitchell

“At the point where I’m trying to force something and it’s not happening, and I’m getting frustrated with, say, writing a poem, I can go and pick up the brushes and start painting. At the point where the painting seems to not be going anywhere, I go and pick up the guitar.

Back then, I didn’t have a big organization around me. I was just a kid with a guitar, traveling around. My responsibility basically was to the art, and I had extra time on my hands. There is no extra time now. There isn’t enough time.

  • I can’t remember anything I ever wrote.
  • I learned a woman is never an old woman.
  • No one likes to have less than they had before. That’s the nature of the human animal.
  • Not to dismiss Gershwin, but Gershwin is the chip; Ellington was the block.
  • Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell.”  

For any Joni Mitchell fan of beautiful melodies, we’ve posted lyrics and a video below – browse and explore your response to the song and lyrics.

River

by Joni Mitchell   

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

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
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I’m 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 wish I had a river I could skate away on

Oh, I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby say goodbye

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

 
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