River Deep – Mountain High

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"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"
ReleasedMay 1966
Format7-inch single
RecordedMarch 1966
StudioGold Star, Los Angeles
GenreSoul, pop
LabelPhilles (131)
Producer(s)Phil Spector[2]
Ike & Tina Turner singles chronology
"Betcha Can't Kiss Me (Just One Time Baby)"
"River Deep – Mountain High"
"Anything You Wasn't Born With"

"River Deep – Mountain High" is a 1966 single by Ike & Tina Turner released on Philles Records in 1966. It is considered by producer Phil Spector to be his best work.[3] Rolling Stone ranked "River Deep – Mountain High" #33 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,[4] NME ranked it #37 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,[5] and it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.[6]

The single did not perform well upon its original release in the US, but it was successful in Europe. 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 a revival of the song from covers by Eric Burdon and the Animals and Deep Purple in 1968, the original version was reissued by A&M records in 1969.


Phil Spector had seen the Ike & Tina Turner Revue perform at a club on the Sunset Strip and invited them to appear on The Big T.N.T Show.[7] Spector was impressed by Tina and wanted to use her voice with the Wrecking Crew, and his "Wall of Sound" production technique. He went to the Turner's house, and struck a deal with Ike Turner to use Tina on the River Deep – Mountain High album and single; as Ike wanted the recordings to be credited to "Ike & Tina Turner."[8] Spector offered Ike $20,000 for creative control over the sessions. At the time they were signed to Loma Records, having just switched from Kent Records. After Mike Maitland [then president at Warners] gave them their release, they signed with Spector's Philles Records.[9]


"River Deep – Mountain High" was the first recording that Tina Turner did for Philles. It was written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich. The track cost a then-unheard-of $22,000[10] ($169,885 today), and required 21 session musicians.

After several rehearsals, and two sessions for the musicians to lay down a backing track, Spector got Tina in to the studio on March 7; but she was unable to provide what he wanted. The following week she returned to the studio with Ike Turner.[11] Due to Spector's perfectionism in the studio, he made Tina Turner sing the song over and over for several hours until he felt he had the perfect vocal take for the song. She 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."[12]

The recording of the song was later dramatized for Tina Turner's biographical film, What's Love Got to Do with It.



The single entered the lower end of the Billboard 100 and stopped at number 88 on the pop charts. This caused the album to be shelved in the US, however, the single was a hit in the UK, peaking at number 3 in the singles charts. 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.[14]

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.[14]

George Harrison praised the record,[2] declaring it "a perfect record from start to finish. You couldn't improve on it."[15][16]


The original Ike & Tina Turner version of the song was reissued by A&M Records in 1969 to a more receptive public, and since then, has gained the recognition Spector wanted for the record.

Numerous versions were recorded by the Turners, including two different recordings without Spector's "Wall of Sound" production style: one on 1973 album Nutbush City Limits which was released as the single "River Deep, Mountain High 1974" and another from an undetermined year that appeared on 1991's Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner. Tina also recorded a few versions without Ike, recorded in 1986, 1991 and 1993 respectively.[citation needed] Tina included live performances on her albums, Tina Live in Europe and Tina Live.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart Year Peak


Billboard Hot 100 1966 88 [17]
Cash Box R&B Top 50 36 [18]
UK 3 [19]
Netherlands 9 [20]
Canada 62 [21]
Belgium 26 [20]
Australia 14 [22]
Billboard Hot 100 1969 112 [23]
Canada 57 [24]
UK 33 [19]

The Supremes and the Four Tops version[edit]

In 1970, their post-Diana Ross era, The Supremes and the Four Tops released a version. 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 number 7 on the soul chart and number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971,[25] making it the highest-charting version of the song in the United States. Their version also peaked number 11 on the UK Singles Chart and number 25 on Netherlands' MegaCharts.[citation needed]

Other covers[edit]

A ten-minute version was 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 number 53 in early 1969 and number 42 on the Canadian RPM charts.[citation needed] 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.

Eric Burdon and the Animals released a version as the B-side to their single "White Houses" from the album Every One of Us.[26]

Céline Dion covered the song on her 1996 album Falling Into You.[27] At first, Phil Spector showed interest in producing the album track, but left the project so Jim Steinman took over as producer. Spector was unimpressed by Steinman's efforts, calling Steinman a "bad clone" of himself.[28] Céline Dion had previously performed the song in some of her concerts, as included in her live album Live à Paris, recorded in 1995.[29][30] Subsequent live performances are included on the CD/DVD releases, VH1 Divas Live, Taking Chances World Tour: The Concert, Céline une seule fois / Live 2013, as well as the DVD release, Live in Las Vegas: A New Day....[31][32][33][34] Dion's studio version is also included in her 2008 compilation, My Love: Essential Collection.[35] In 2016, Dion also performed this song live during her 2016 Summer Tour.[36]


  1. ^ Thompson, Dave (2003). Wall of Pain: The Biography of Phil Spector, page 116, Sanctuary. 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". Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  3. ^ Ribowsky, Mark. He's a Rebel. Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2007.
  4. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. April 7, 2011. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  5. ^ Barker, Emily (January 31, 2014). "The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time: 100-1". NME.
  6. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame". Recording Academy Grammy Awards.
  7. ^ Loder, Kurt (March 1, 1985). "Tina Turner Stages A Rock-Solid Comeback". Chicago Tribune.
  8. ^ Mick Brown (17 Oct 2012). Tearing Down The Wall of Sound: The Rise And Fall of Phil Spector. A&C Black. p. 209.
  9. ^ Fong-Torres, Ben (October 14, 1971). "Tales of Ike and Tina Turner". Rolling Stone.
  10. ^ Mark Bego (2005). Tina Turner: Break Every Rule. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-1-58979-253-1.
  11. ^ Mick Brown (17 Oct 2012). Tearing Down The Wall of Sound: The Rise And Fall of Phil Spector. A&C Black. p. 211.
  12. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  13. ^ "Ike & Tina Turner Featuring Tina* – River Deep - Mountain High". Discogs.com. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  14. ^ a b Michael Billig, Rock 'n' roll Jews. Syracuse University Press. 2001. p. 110. ISBN 9780815607052. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  15. ^ Williams, Richard (2003). Phil Spector: Out of His Head. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 137–38. ISBN 9780711998643.
  16. ^ Ribowsky, Mark (2006). He's a Rebel: Phil Spector – Rock and Roll's Legendary Producer. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-306-81471-6.
  17. ^ "Hot 100" (PDF). Billboard. June 18, 1966.
  18. ^ "Cash Box Top 50 In R&B Locations". Cash Box. June 25, 1966.
  19. ^ a b "Ike & Tina Turner Chart History - UK". Official Charts.
  20. ^ a b "Ike & Tina Turner - "River Deep - Mountain High"". Dutch Charts.
  21. ^ "RPM Weekly Top 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada. June 27, 1966.
  22. ^ "Go-Set Australian charts - 16 November 1966". Poparchives.com.au. 1966-11-16. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  23. ^ "Bubbling Under The Hot 100" (PDF). Billboard. November 1, 1969.
  24. ^ "RPM Weekly Top 100 Singles". Library and Congress Canada. December 6, 1969.
  25. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 558.
  26. ^ "Top 60 Pop Spotlight" (PDF). Billboard. November 16, 1968.
  27. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine (1996-03-12). "Falling into You - Céline Dion | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  28. ^ MacLeod, Sean. Phil Spector : sound of the Sixties. Lanham, Maryland. p. 153. ISBN 9781442267053. OCLC 982465319.
  29. ^ Jose F. Promis. "Live à Paris - Céline Dion | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-22. Retrieved 2015-04-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine (1998-10-06). "VH1 Divas Live - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-22. Retrieved 2014-03-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-05-20. Retrieved 2014-05-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-25. Retrieved 2010-05-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2013-12-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. ^ "Céline Dion, bouleversée, lance sa tournée hommage ŕ René (VIDÉOS)". Chartsinfrance.net. Retrieved 2016-09-29.

External links[edit]