That Heartbreaking Song From 'The Politician' Is Actually the Joni Mitchell Classic "River"

I'm not crying, YOU—Okay, I'm crying.

by Emily Tannenbaum
September 29, 2019

[Warning: spoilers for The Politician, ahead, as well as discussion of suicide]

If you're reading this, it's likely that you are right in the middle of the first episode of Ryan Murphy's new Netflix series, The Politician, and are currently bawling your eyes out. Obviously, you're not alone. Anyone who's seen Dear Evan Hansen starring the 26-year-old Tony winner could have warned you that his angelic voice was practically crafted by the Lord herself to bring you to tears, but if you went into The Politician blind this was probably a bigger shock than any of the bonkers things that came out of this character's "teenaged" mouth so far.

After his former opponent for class president, River (David Corenswet), dies by suicide, Payton (Ben) performs a song in his honor in front of the entire student body. River was, after all, Payton's sometimes lover.

Well, it turns out the song he's singing is actually called "River," and it's a 1971 classic by Joni Mitchell that has somehow become a very popular song to cover on Christmas albums.

Before his performance, River's girlfriend Astrid (Lucy Boynton) told Payton that he was to blame for the teenager's suicide since, just a few scenes before his death, Payton had threatened to out the lacrosse player as gay if he continued to run against him. If the lyrics "I made my baby say goodbye" are any indication, Payton could be feeling the same way. It would be just one hint that he's an actual person, and not just a pathologically ambitious presidential wannabe. You'll have to keep watching to find out!

Printed from the official Joni Mitchell website. Permanent link:

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