Joni Mitchell releases 1st official video for 'River' to celebrate song's 50th anniversary

The animated watercolor painting lends the perfect melancholic mood to the untraditional and beloved Christmas song.

The animated watercolor painting lends the perfect melancholic mood to the untraditional Christmas song

'River,' released in 1971 on Joni Mitchell's seminal album Blue, has never had an official video from the singer. (Joni Mitchell/Skazka Studios)

"We needed a sad Christmas song, didn't we? In the 'bah humbug' of it all?" Joni Mitchell asked NPR in 2014 while talking about her melancholic Christmas staple, "River," off her seminal 1971 album, Blue.

Fifty years later, Mitchell has paired the break-up song, said to be about her relationship with Graham Nash, with a beautifully wistful animated video — the song's first ever official one.

Created by director Matvey Rezanov and Skazka Studios, the "River" video uses animated watercolour painting to "capture the song's lonesome mood while paying tribute to Mitchell's prolific creativity as a painter," as the press release described. Its black-and-white palette perfectly captures the feeling of holiday heartbreak, with the pops of colour at the very end signalling a small slice of hope.

Mitchell was also celebrated earlier this month at the 44th annual Kennedy Center Honors, where Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard and jazz musician Herbie Hancock (an oft collaborator of Mitchell's) paid tribute with an affecting cover of "Both Sides Now," originally from the singer's 1969 album, Clouds.

Mitchell's box set, Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967), has also recently been nominated for a 2022 Grammy Award for best historical album, marking her 17th Grammy nomination to date. Two nights before the Grammys take place, Mitchell will again be honoured, this time as MusiCares' 2022 Person of the Year during a tribute at the Los Angeles Convention Centre on Jan. 29.


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