“River Deep – Mountain High” by Tina Turner (ft. Ike Turner)

This is very much a love song – and quite an innocent one by more-modern standards.  The two phrases which make up the title of the track, “river deep” and “mountain high”, respectively and metaphorically refer to the depths and heights of the singer’s love for the addressee, i.e. her sweetheart. And she is very much in love, comparing her affection for him to what a child feels for her favorite doll or his favorite pet. And that’s what the lyrics of this song are entirely based on, the singer relaying her feelings – in various ways – for the addressee.

Release Date of “River Deep – Mountain High”

This track originally came out on 22 May 1966. The labels that issued it were Philles Records in America and London Records in the UK. And it actually served as the title track to the album Ike & Tina Turner came out with that year.

Did Tina Turner write “River Deep – Mountain High”?

No. That being said, the producers of the song are Phil Spector and Jack Nitzsche (1937-2000). Spector also served as one of its co-writers, alongside Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (1940-2009), with the latter two writers being former spouses.

Spector has had a long, distinguished career in music and throughout the decades has worked with some of the biggest names in the field, including some of the Beatles themselves. And he went on to state that “River Deep – Mountain High” is actually his favorite track which he ever produced.

And the origin of this song dates back to Phil Spector wanting to work with Tina Turner specifically. In fact it is she alone who provided the lead vocals, and Ike Turner (1931-2007) is not credited with actually contributing anything musically to the track, despite headlining the song. This is due to the fact that he would not allow Tina to work with Spector unless both he and his wife were both credited as the artists. Indeed as history has noted, Ike was infamously controlling (i.e. abusive) towards Tina.

And in that regard it should be noted that the song was later included on Tina Turner’s solo compilation entitled “Simply the Best” (1991).

Success of Song

This song was considered to be a mild success (euphemistically speaking) by American standards. In other words, it performed well overseas. For instance, it topped the Los 40 Principales in Spain and impressively peaked at number 3 in the United Kingdom. It also went on to be certified Silver in the UK and overall charted in countries outside of the US. However, Stateside, where it had in fact made it onto the Billboard Hot 100, it only did so barely. And on Cash Box’s Top 50 R&B chart, it reached as high as number 36.

A Classic

However, at the end of the day, “River Deep – Mountain High” is still considered a classic way beyond its chart showing. For instance, Rolling Stone placed it as high as number 33 on their renowned list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. And the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also placed it on their listing of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.  Moreover in 1999, the track was enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame despite never winning a Grammy itself. After all is said and done, this is considered to be the most-successful song that Ike & Tina Turner ever dropped as a unit.

Covers of “River Deep – Mountain High”

Part of its notoriety has been attributed to the fact that it has been effectively covered by other artists throughout the years. For instance, in 1968, just a couple of years after Ike & Tina’s version dropped, the British bands Deep Purple and The Animals released their own notable renditions. In fact due to the notoriety of their versions, Ike & Tina Turner’s original was reissued in 1969, though in that case by A&M Records.

“River Deep – Mountain High” was also a notable hit for a collaborative effort between The Supremes and The Four Tops in 1970.  In fact their rendition performed better in the US (though not in Europe) than Ike & Tina Turner’s original.

This song has also been notably covered by Celine Dion in 1996, with Phil Spector also being involved in producing that version. And the cast of “Glee” also took on the tune in 2010.

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