Song of the Day: Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver

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Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a song written by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver from a a letter/poem their friend (John Albert Fitzgerald) living in West Virginia wrote them. It was initially recorded by John Denver. It was included on his 1971 breakout album Poems, Prayers & Promises.

Lyrics:

Almost heaven, West Virginia,
Blue Ridge Mountains
Shenandoah River.
Life is old there,

Older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains
Growin’ like a breeze.

Country roads, take me home
To the place where I belong:
West Virginia, mountain momma,
Take me home, country roads.

All my memories gathered ’round her,
Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water.
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky,
Misty taste of moonshine,
Teardrop in my eye.

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong:
West Virginia, mountain momma,
Take me home, country roads.

I hear her voice, in the mornin’ hour she calls me,
Radio reminds me of my home far away
And driving down the road I get a feeling that
I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Country roads, take me home
To the place where I belong:
West Virginia, mountain momma,
Take me home, country roads.

……

The song was a success on its initial release and was certified Gold by the RIAA on August 18, 1971. The song became one of John Denver’s most popular and beloved songs, and is still very popular around the world. It has continued to sell, with over a million digital copies sold in the United States. It is considered to be Denver’s signature song.

The song also has a prominent status as an iconic symbol of West Virginia, which it describes as “almost Heaven”; for example, it was played at the funeral memorial for U.S. Senator Robert Byrd in July 2010. In March 2014, it became the official state anthemof West Virginia.

The Country Roads in this song are in West Virginia, but Denver had never even been to West Virginia. Bill and Taffy Danoff started writing the song while driving to Maryland – they’d never been to West Virginia either! Danoff got his inspiration from postcards sent to him by a friend who DID live there, and from listening to the powerful AM station WWVA out of Wheeling, West Virginia, which he picked up in Massachusetts when he was growing up.

Danoff told NPR in 2011: “I just thought the idea that I was hearing something so exotic to me from someplace as far away. West Virginia might as well have been in Europe, for all I knew.

Covers

  • Eddy Arnold recorded it for his 1971 album, Loving Her Was Easier (RCA Victor, LSP-4625)
  • Lynn Anderson recorded a cover for her 1971 album How Can I Unlove You.
  • Loretta Lynn recorded it for her 1971 album You’re Lookin’ At Country.
  • Skeeter Davis recorded it for her 1971 album Bring it on Home.
  • Ray Charles cut a cover of the song for his 1972 album A Message from the People.
  • The Statler Brothers recorded a cover version on their 1972 album “Innerview”.
  • Olivia Newton-John recorded a cover version in 1973 that reached the top 10 in Japan and the number 15 in the UK, but only reached No. 119 in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100. It is this recording which is eventually used as the opening song for Whisper of the Heart (1995) a Studio Ghibli anime that uses “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as a plot device featuring several renditions in Japanese including an end-title version performed by Yoko Honna.
  • In 1974, Lena Zavaroni recorded a cover of “Country Roads” for her album Ma! (He’s Making Eyes At Me)
  • Toots & the Maytals recorded a reggae version in 1974 in which the lyrics are altered to describe Jamaica: “Almost heaven, West Jamaica,” for instance, replaces Denver’s “West Virginia.” This version was itself covered in Almost Heaven, a 2005 German film directed by Ed Herzog. In the story, Helen Shuster is a German girl with a terminal illness who dreams to be a country singer Nashville style and winds up in Jamaica. The song is sung by Heike Makatsch, who plays Helen.
  • In 1975 Aleksander Mežek covered Denver’s single, changed lyrics to Slovene language, which is his home language and named the song “Siva pot”, which means “grey road”. The song is still very popular in Slovenia.
  • Israel Kamakawiwoʻole recorded a version for his 1993 album Facing Future in which West Mākaha, Hawaii is substituted for West Virginia.
  • Romanian singer Gil Dobrică covered the song 1977 with a Romanian text “Hai acasă, hai cu mine” (“Let’s go home, come with me”).
  • Hermes House Band recorded a cover and performed on Top of the Pops when the single was released in 2001.
  • Country pop vocalist Carrie Underwood performed the song during her Play On Tour in 2010. Underwood performed the song in the bed of a pick-up truck over the audience.
  • In 1995, Yuji Nomi, a Japanese composer, adapted the song to the Studio Ghibli movie Whisper of the Heart by changing the lyrics in a humorous and ecology-aware way.
  • In 2008 Punk rock cover band, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, covered it for their album Have Another Ball.
  • Country music artist Daryle Singletary covered the song on his 2009 album Rockin’ in the Country.
  • In 2009 Roch Voisine covered it for the album AmerIIcana.
  • In 2010 Swedish singer Meja covered the Studio Ghibli version of the song on her album AniMeja.
  • In 2012, The Gypsy Queens released “Take Me Home Country Roads” on their eponymous album The Gypsy Queens London Records (Universal Music) produced by Larry Klein.
  • In 2012 singer/songwriter Mike Doughty released a cover on his album The Flip Is Another Honey.
  • In 2013, American folk singers Brandi Carlile and Emmylou Harris recorded the song for the John Denver tribute album This Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver.
  • In 2013, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out perform “Take Me Home Country Roads” in the Washington, DC studios of WAMU’s Bluegrass Country.
  • The 2016 single “Forever Country” includes the song in a medley with “I Will Always Love You” and “On the Road Again”.

In popular culture

  • In the episode “American Dream Factory” of American Dad!, Stan and his band of illegal Mexican Immigrants sing this song at their local county fair to help them escape from the eyes of the law, in a tip of the hat to The Sound of Music.
  • Bradford City A.F.C., an English football club, has a variation for their stadium Valley Parade, with West Virginia being replaced with Midland Road.
  • South Sydney Rabbitohs, an Australian rugby league Club, have a variation with Country Road being replaced with Botany Road.
  • Manchester United F.C., an English football club, have a variation with Country Road being replaced with Old Trafford.
  • Vegalta Sendai, a Japanese football club, sings the song as its theme before home games. While during the game altered lyrics are sung to the tunes of The Lambrusco Kidby the Toy Dolls, Blitzkrieg Bop, and other songs by KISS and Twisted Sister.

John Denver

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Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.
December 31, 1943
Roswell, New Mexico, U.S.
Died October 12, 1997 (aged 53)
Monterey Bay, California, U.S.
Cause of death Airplane crash
Occupation
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • record producer
  • activist
  • actor
  • humanitarian
Years active 1962–1997 (his death)
Spouse(s)
  • Annie Martell-Denver(m. 1967; div. 1982)
  • Cassandra Delaney-Denver(m. 1988; div. 1993)
Children 3
Musical career
Genres
  • Folk
  • folk rock
  • pop
  • western
  • country
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • acoustic guitar
  • fiddle
Labels
  • Mercury
  • RCA
  • Windstar
  • Sony Wonder
Associated acts
  • The John Denver Band
  • Starland Vocal Band
  • The Back Porch Majority
  • The New Christy Minstrels
  • Chad Mitchell Trio
  • The Muppets
  • Cass Elliot
  • Olivia Newton-John
  • Plácido Domingo
  • Emmylou Harris
  • Peter, Paul and Mary
  • Johnny Cash
  • Tina Turner
  • Glen Campbell
  • George Burns
  • Frank Sinatra
Website johndenver.com

photo: Flickr Mark Goebel

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