Take Me Home, Country Roads
|"Take Me Home, Country Roads"|
|Single by John Denver|
|from the album Poems, Prayers and Promises|
|Released||April 12, 1971|
|Format||7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, maxi, CD, digital download, cassette single, DataPlay single|
|Genre||Folk, country pop|
|Writer(s)||Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, John Denver|
|Producer(s)||Milton Okun, Susan Ruskin|
|John Denver singles chronology|
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" is a song written by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver, and initially recorded by John Denver. It was included on his 1971 breakout album Poems, Prayers and Promises; the single went to number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, topped only by "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" by The Bee Gees. It became one of John Denver's most popular and beloved songs, and is still very popular around the world. It is considered to be Denver's signature song. It 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.
Starting December 22, 1970, John Denver was heading the bill at The Cellar Door, a Washington, D.C. club. Danoff and Nivert opened for him as a duo named Fat City. After the Tuesday post-Christmas re-opening night (Cellar Door engagements ran from Tuesday to Sunday, and this booking was for two weeks), the three headed back to their place for an impromptu jam. On the way, Denver's left thumb was broken in an automobile accident. He was taken to the hospital, where a splint was applied. By the time they got back to the house, he was, in his own words, "wired, you know".
Danoff and Nivert then told him about a song that they had been working on for about a month. Inspiration had come while driving to a family reunion of Nivert's relatives in nearby Maryland. To pass the time en route, Danoff had made up a ballad about the little winding roads they were taking. Later, he changed the story to fit that of an artist friend, who used to write to him about the splendors of the West Virginia countryside.
Originally, Danoff and Nivert had planned to sell the song to popular country singer Johnny Cash, but when Denver heard the song and decided he had to have it, the duo who wrote the original lyrics decided not to make the sale.
They sang the song for Denver and as he recalled, "I flipped." The three stayed up until 6:00 a.m., changing words and moving lines around. When they finished, John announced that the song had to go on his next album.
The song was premiered December 30, 1970, during an encore of Denver's set, the singers reading the words from a folded piece of paper. This resulted in a five-minute ovation, one of the longest in Cellar Door history. They recorded it in New York City in January 1971.
Danoff and his then-wife, Mary ("Taffy") Nivert, wrote "I Guess He'd Rather Be in Colorado" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads," both of which were hits for John Denver. The latter song was adopted as an official state song by the West Virginia Legislature on March 7, 2014, alongside three other pieces: "West Virginia Hills", "This is My West Virginia", and "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home". Danoff (from Springfield, Massachusetts) has stated he had never been in West Virginia before co-writing the song. He had even briefly considered using "Massachusetts" rather than "West Virginia", as both four-syllable state names would have fit the song's meter. Denver recorded about a dozen Danoff compositions from 1972 through the end of his career.
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" appeared on the LP Poems, Prayers & Promises and was released as a 45 in the spring of 1971. Original pressings credited the single to "John Denver with Fat City". It broke nationally in mid-April, but moved up the charts very slowly. After several weeks, RCA Records called John and told him that they were giving up on the single. His response: "No! Keep working on it!" They did, and on August 18 it was certified a million-seller.
Reception in West Virginia
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" received an enthusiastic response from West Virginians. The song is the theme song of West Virginia University and has been performed at every home football pre-game show since 1972. In 1977 Denver played for Morgantown High School and even changed the wording to "Appalachian Mountains, Monongahela River". In 1980, Denver performed the song during pregame festivities to a sold-out crowd of Mountaineer fans. This performance marked the dedication of the current Mountaineer Field and the first game for then head coach Don Nehlen. The song is played for other athletic events and university functions, including after football games, for which the fans are encouraged to stay in the stands and sing the song along with the team.
The popularity of the song has inspired resolutions in the West Virginia Legislature to change the state song of West Virginia to "Take Me Home, Country Roads". On March 7, 2014, the West Virginia Legislature approved a resolution to make Take Me Home, Country Roads the official state song of West Virginia. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed the resolution into law on March 8.
The land features mentioned prominently in the song lyrics – the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains – have only marginal associations with the state of West Virginia, and would seem to be more appropriate to describe western Virginia. The river passes through only the very eastern tip of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia in Jefferson County. Similarly, the vast majority of the Blue Ridge also lies outside the state, only crossing into West Virginia in Jefferson County. According to a radio interview with Nivert, the road is close to her native Washington, D.C., and nearby Montgomery County, Maryland, where Denver often visited. Clopper Road still exists today, but the landscape has changed drastically from the bucolic scenery that once surrounded it.
Hillary Rodham Clinton quoted the song in the opening line of her speech following her massive win in the 2008 West Virginia Democratic primary, stating: "You know, like the song says, 'It's almost heaven.'"
Thomas, West Virginia based brewery, Mountain State Brewing Company, produces an amber ale called 'Almost Heaven' "named after John Denver's ode to West Virginia, Country Roads."
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||3|
|Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)||5|
|Canada Country Tracks (RPM)||17|
|US Billboard Hot 100||2|
|US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)||3|
|US Hot Country Singles (Billboard)||50|
- 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.
- 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)
- Israel Kamakawiwoʻole recorded a version for his 1993 album Facing Future in which West Mākaha, Hawaii is substituted for West Virginia.
- The Christian ska band, The W's, covered it on their 1999 album Trouble with X.
- Toots & the Maytals recorded a reggae version 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.
- 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 2010 Swedish singer Meja covered the Studio Ghibli version of the song on her album AniMeja.
- 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 popular culture
- In the "American Dream Factory" episode (3.11, January 28, 2007) of the animated TV series American Dad, Stan Smith and his son Seteve Smith sing this song with a large group of illegal aliens.
- Bradford City A.F.C., an English Football Club, have a variation for their stadium Valley Parade, with West Virginia being replaced with Midland Road.
- "John Denver - UNPLUGGED COLLECTION [IMPORT] Music CDs" (list), Choose, 2007, webpage: JD-Collect.
- Garcia, Jon (July 2, 2010). "Eulogizing Sen. Robert Byrd: The Hard Working, if Imperfect, Senator". ABC News.
- Collis, John (30 September 2011). John Denver: Mother Nature's Son. Mainstream Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-78057-330-4.
- "Bill's Music Heritage". Billdanoff.com. Retrieved 2011-01-29. This may be a little self-serving recollection - I recall them performing it during the first set, Denver calling them up onstage and then promising to get them back up again once the song had been performed. There was likely a second set that night, the night before a big holiday, the only management decision to be made whether there was an additional cover charge imposed for those inclined to linger through both sets.
- Bill Danoff
- "Take Me Home, Country Roads - she wrote it and sang on it, but you've never heard of her". Blogcritics.org. Retrieved 2011-01-29.
- "Welcome To | WVU Traditions | West Virginia University". Welcometo.wvu.edu. 2009-11-03. Retrieved 2011-01-29.
- "Bill Danoff | Bill and John Denver". Retrieved November 26, 2012.
- "Brews". Retrieved February 13, 2012.
- "Top RPM Singles: Issue 7580." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. September 4, 1971.
- "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 5331." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. August 14, 1971.
- "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 5339." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. August 14, 1971.
- "John Denver Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for John Denver. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
- "John Denver Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Adult Contemporary for John Denver. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
- "Hot Country Singles". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc) 83 (36): 32. September 4, 1971. ISSN 0006-2510.
- Almost Heaven (2005) - IMDb
- Heike Makatsch - IMDb