River Deep – Mountain High

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Not to be confused with Ain't No Mountain High Enough.
"River Deep – Mountain High"
cover art by actor Dennis Hopper[1]
Single by Ike & Tina Turner
from the album River Deep – Mountain High
B-side "I'll Keep You Happy"
Released May 1966
Format 7" single
Recorded Gold Star Studios, Los Angeles, 1965
Genre R&B, pop, soul
Length 3:40
Label Philles Records
Writer(s) Phil Spector
Jeff Barry
Ellie Greenwich
Producer(s) Phil Spector[2]
Ike & Tina Turner singles chronology
I Can't Believe What You Say (For Seeing What You Do)"
"River Deep – Mountain High" (non-US)
"A Man Is a Man Is a Man" (non-US)
"River Deep, Mountain High"
Single by Deep Purple
from the album The Book of Taliesyn
B-side "Listen, Learn, Read On"
Released February 1969
Format 7" single
Recorded October 1968
at De Lane Lea, London
Genre Progressive rock
Length 2:35 (single edit)
10:12 (album version)
Label Tetragrammaton (US)
Producer(s) Derek Lawrence
Deep Purple singles chronology
"Kentucky Woman"
"River Deep, Mountain High"
"Black Night"
"River Deep Mountain High"
Single by Eric Burdon & The Animals
from the album Love Is
B-side "White Houses"
Released 1969
Format 7" single
Recorded October 1968
Genre Hard rock, soul
Length 3:52 (single version)
7:26 (album version)
Label MGM
Producer(s) Tom Wilson
Eric Burdon & The Animals singles chronology
"Ring of Fire"
"River Deep Mountain High"
"The House of the Rising Sun"
"River Deep – Mountain High"
Single by The Supremes & Four Tops
from the album The Magnificent 7
B-side "Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music"
Released November 5, 1970
Format 7" single
Recorded Hitsville USA (Studio A); May 7, 11-12, 1970
Genre R&B, soul
Length 3:14 (single version)
4:54 (album version)
Label Motown
M 1173
Producer(s) Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson
The Supremes chronology
"Stoned Love"
"River Deep – Mountain High"
"Nathan Jones"
Four Tops singles chronology
"It's All in the Game"
"River Deep – Mountain High"
"Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)"

"River Deep – Mountain High" is a 1966 single by Ike & Tina Turner. Considered by producer Phil Spector to be his best work,[3] the single was successful in Europe, peaking at #3 in the United Kingdom, though it flopped on its original release in the United States. Spector claimed to be pleased with the response from the critics and his peers,[2] but he then withdrew from the music industry for two years, beginning his personal decline.

After Eric Burdon and the Animals covered the song in 1968, it was re-released a year later, and has since become one of Tina Turner's signature songs, though it charted even lower, "bubbling under" at #112.

In 1999, "River Deep – Mountain High" was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame.


Written by Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich, "River Deep - Mountain High" was among the first recordings that Ike & Tina Turner did for Phil Spector's Philles Records. Spector was well aware of Ike Turner's controlling attitude in the studio, and therefore he drafted an unusual contract: the River Deep – Mountain High album and single would be credited to "Ike & Tina Turner," but Ike was paid $20,000[4] to stay away from the studio, and only Tina Turner's vocals would be used on the record.[5]

The track was recorded using Spector's "Wall of Sound" production technique, cost a then-unheard-of $22,000, and required 21 session musicians and 21 background vocalists. Due to Spector's perfectionism in the studio, he made Turner sing the song over and over for several hours until he felt he had the perfect vocal take for the song. Turner recalled, "I must have sung that 500,000 times. I was drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing."[6]

The recording of the song was later dramatized for Tina Turner's biographical film, What's Love Got to Do with It. At Ike Turner's 2007 funeral, Phil Spector chastised the film's depiction saying that he had a good relationship with Ike Turner and that the film was "garbage" stating that he insisted for Ike's name to be included on the recording despite the fact that executives of Spector's label Philles had only wanted Tina billed on the recording.[citation needed]


The single entered the lower end of the Billboard 100 and stopped at #88 on the pop charts. Even though it had better fortune in the United Kingdom, peaking at #3 in the singles charts on first release, Spector was so disillusioned that he ceased involvement in the recording industry totally for two years, and only intermittently returned to the studio after that; he effectively became a recluse and began to self-destruct.[7]

Ike Turner remarked that he felt the record did not do well in America because the sound was "pop or white", while Tina Turner's voice was R&B, so that "America mixes race in it" — though the writer Michael Billig speculated that although earlier records which had mixed black singers with a white pop sound had sold well, by 1966 the black political movement was encouraging African Americans to take a pride in their own culture, and "River Deep – Mountain High" was out of step with that movement.[8]

Later Rolling Stone was to put it at #33 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

George Harrison praised the record,[2] declaring it "a perfect record from start to finish. You couldn't improve on it"[citation needed] "River Deep - Mountain High" compared a woman's love and loyalty, respectively, to that which a child feels for a doll, and a puppy has for his master.

Cover versions[edit]


In 1967, Harry Nilsson (who had worked with Spector as a songwriter early in his career) released a cover version of the song on his first RCA Victor album, Pandemonium Shadow Show. This was followed by an epic ten-minute version recorded by Deep Purple for their 1968 album, The Book of Taliesyn. An edited version was released as a single in the United States and reached #53 in early 1969 and #42 on the Canadian RPM charts. It had a progressive rock sound to it, as Deep Purple had not yet adopted the hard rock sound for which they are most famous.

The original Ike and Tina Turner version of the song was re-released the same year to a more receptive public, and since then, has gained the recognition Spector wanted from the record. Numerous versions have been recorded since, including two different recordings that do not feature Spector's "Wall of Sound" production style: one featured on 1973's Nutbush City Limits LP and another from an undetermined era that was featured on 1991's Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner, as well as some by Tina Turner herself without Ike Turner, recorded in 1986, 1991 and 1993 respectively.

Eric Burdon & The Animals recorded an extended version of the song, with additional musical sections and a heavily dramatized arrangement, for their 1968 album Love Is. An edited version was released as a single, and the full version also appears on their 1969 compilation The Greatest Hits of Eric Burdon and The Animals. In 1985, Burdon recorded a live version of it and released it in 1992 on "That's Live".

The Australian band, The Easybeats, did a cover version in 1967. Another cover version was by 2 of Clubs, a Cincinnati-based American female pop duo, which failed to chart.

Leslie Uggams recorded a version for her 1968 Atlantic LP What's an Uggams?.


The Shadows performed an instrumental version of this song in their 1970 album Shades of Rock.

The Bob Seger System did an extended cover version on their 1970 album Mongrel.

Also in 1970, the post-Diana Ross Supremes and The Four Tops released the most successful cover version to date. Produced by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, the single was one of several recordings that paired the two Motown groups. The Supremes/Four Tops cover, included on the 1970 LP The Magnificent 7, with its soaring vocals and string section, peaked at #7 on the soul chart and #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971,[9] making it the highest-charting version of the song in the United States. Their version also peaked #11 on the UK Singles Chart and #25 on Netherlands' MegaCharts that same .[citation needed]

The Australian punk band, The Saints, covered the song on their 1977 EP One Two Three Four.


Katrina and the Waves did an upbeat version of the song in 1984 but it was not released on their main albums (the track appears as a bonus on some MP3 downloads of their first album).

This song was also featured in the 1985 Broadway musical, Leader of the Pack, based on the life of songwriter Ellie Greenwich. This version is sung by Darlene Love (who plays herself in the show) and is considered one of the most popular versions of the song.

The English synth pop duo Erasure covered the song on their 1988 album, The Innocents. The BBC extensively used the non-vocal section of the "Private Dance Mix" during the Seoul Olympic Games in that year.

The Flamin' Groovies also covered the song in early 1981. They recorded at Gold Star Studios as well for a French label, Underdog Records, and it can be found on their 1989 compilations Grease and Groovies Greatest Grooves.


Jimmy Barnes recorded a cover for his album Soul Deep. It is the closing track of the album.

Annie Lennox performed the song live in July 1992 on her MTV Unplugged special and released the audio track on the Walking on Broken Glass EP.

Neil Diamond released a version on his album Up on the Roof: Songs from the Brill Building in 1993.

The Eric BurdonBrian Auger Band performed the song live and released it on Access All Areas in 1993.

A live cover was performed by Céline Dion on the Late Show with David Letterman in 1994, which resulted in a studio version, produced by Jim Steinman, for her extremely successful 1996 album Falling into You. Later, Dion performed it live on VH1 Divas Live concert in 1998 as the opening number of her part. She also performed this song from November 2006–December 2007 in her A New Day... show in Las Vegas. The song was also part of her 2008/9 Taking Chances World Tour, as well as her new Las Vegas show, Celine.

21st century[edit]

During a handful of 2006 concerts, the song was covered by Kettle Joe's Psychedelic Swamp Revue, who are now known as Donna Jean and the Tricksters.

On April 22, 2008, Mary Wilson (who recorded it as a Supreme with the Four Tops in 1971) took the stage with Australian vocal group Human Nature, on the Seven Network television show It Takes Two. They performed two duets from Human Nature's album, Get Ready: "It Takes Two" and "River Deep, Mountain High".

Meat Loaf sang a duet version of the song with former backup singer Karla Devito for his concert, Live at the Bottom Line.

The song was performed on the first season of Australian Idol by Cosima De Vito on the Top 3 60's show. De Vito withdrew from the competition on the following verdict show due to a throat condition, although it was later revealed that she would have had enough votes to progress through to the Grand Final.

The song was performed again on Australian Idol Season 3 by eventual runner-up Emily Williams on the Top 6 Motown show. The performance was very well received by the judges and audience and Williams was declared safe on the following verdict show.

The song was performed again on Australian Idol in Season 5 by Tarisai Vushe in the semi-finals and she progressed to the Top 12 the following night.

The song was covered in the Stewart Raffill film Standing Ovation.[10][11]

Nicola Roberts sang the song on Popstars The Rivals in 2002

West End star Jessie Buckley performed the song on BBC's "I'd Do Anything" in 2009.

Naya Rivera and Amber Riley covered a duet version of the song for an episode "Duets" on Glee in 2010,[12] which was featured on Glee: The Music, Volume 4. The cover reached #41 in the US and #45 in the UK.

American Idol season ten contestant Pia Toscano performed the song during Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Week, but was eliminated.

American Idol season eleven contestant Hollie Cavanagh performed the song during the Top 5.

Bonnie Tyler and Dolly Parton sing the song in live concerts as well.

Kelly Rowland and Amelia Lily sang it together on The X Factor UK 2011 final.



  1. ^ Dave Thompson, Wall of pain: the biography of Phil Spector, page 116, Sanctuary, 2003, ISBN 1860745431
  2. ^ a b c Show 21 - Forty Miles of Bad Road: Some of the best from rock 'n' roll's dark ages. [Part 2] : UNT Digital Library
  3. ^ Ribowsky, Mark. He's a Rebel. Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2007.
  4. ^ Equivalent to $145,374 in today's dollars.
  5. ^ Richard Williams, Phil Spector: out of his head, page 111. Omnibus Press, 2003, ISBN 0711998647. 2003. ISBN 9780711998643. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  6. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  7. ^ Michael Billig, Rock 'n' roll Jews, page 110. Syracuse University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8156-0705-9. 2001. ISBN 9780815607052. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  8. ^ Michael Billig, Rock 'n' roll Jews, page 109. Syracuse University Press, 2001, ISBN 0815607059. 2001. ISBN 9780815607052. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 558. 
  10. ^ "River Deep from the Movie "Standing Ovation"". YouTube. 2011-01-13. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  11. ^ "Standing Ovation DVD - Available NOW!". Standingovationmovie.com. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  12. ^ "Glee Stars Cover Tina Turner!". Us Weekly. Victoria Lasdon Rose. October 8, 2010. Retrieved October 10, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Ike & Tina Turner Featuring Tina* – River Deep - Mountain High". www.discogs.com. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 

External links[edit]