This was written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector. Greenwich and Barry were married from 1962-1965 but kept working together after their divorce. They were one of the most successful songwriting teams of the '60s, with a string of hits that included "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" and "Leader of the Pack." Spector was a legendary producer famous for his "Wall Of Sound" recording technique, which he had used with great success on other songs he worked on with Greenwich and Barry, including hits by The Ronettes and The Crystals. Greenwich, Barry and Spector each had separate ideas for songs which they combined to form "River Deep - Mountain High." The melody is a composite of three different unfinished songs.
It had been over a year since Phil Spector produced a hit record, and he went all out on this one. When it flopped in America, he was shocked and very upset. He announced his retirement, went into seclusion and stopped working until 1970, when he returned to the studio to work on The Beatles Let It Be album and produce solo works by George Harrison and John Lennon.
This was written specifically for Tina Turner to sing. Phil Spector made very dense recordings that required a strong vocalist to cut through, and he knew Turner and her flamethrower voice could handle it.
Although this is credited to Ike And Tina Turner, Ike had no part in the recording process. Phil Spector wanted his own people to record this, and made sure Ike was not in the studio during the sessions.
Bob Krasnow, the then president of the Blue Thumb label, for whom Ike and Tina recorded in the late 1960s, was interviewed in Rolling Stone magazine (issue 93) in 1971. He recalled how Phil Spector, who had been won over by Ike and Tina's work as a substitute act in the rock and roll film T'N'T Show, hooked up with the Turners: "Spector had just lost The Righteous Brothers, and at the same time, Ike was unhappy (having switched to Kent Records). Spector's attorney Joey Cooper called and said Phil wanted to produce Tina - and that he was willing to pay $20,000 in front to do it! So Mike Maitland [then president at Warners] gave them their release, and they signed with Philles (Phil Spector's record label.)"
Spector offered $20,000 upfront to Ike Turner in exchange for total control over the production. Ike happily counted the money and agreed to stay away from the sessions, even though his name still appeared on the record. When it flopped in America, though Spector was distraught, Ike wasn't, as it meant the end of their association and put him back in charge.