Take Me Home, Country Roads
|"Take Me Home, Country Roads"|
One of earliest U.S. vinyl releases (A-side)
|Single by John Denver|
|from the album Poems, Prayers & Promises|
|Format||7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, maxi, CD, digital download, cassette single, DataPlay single|
|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 that was actually derived from a poem written in a letter to them by their friend, John Albert Fitzgerald who was residing in West Virginia at the time. It was initially recorded by John Denver. It was included on his 1971 breakout album Poems, Prayers & Promises.
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 anthem of West Virginia.
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. Danoff (from Springfield, Massachusetts) has stated he had never been to West Virginia before co-writing the song. Inspiration for the song 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 (John Albert Firzgerald), who used to write to him about the splendors of the West Virginia countryside. He had even briefly considered using "Massachusetts" rather than "West Virginia", as both four-syllable state names would have fitted the song's meter.
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 the song that they had been working on for about a month. 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, with 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.
"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 the single went to number 1 on the Record World Pop Singles Chart and the Cash Box Top 100, and number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, topped only by "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" by The Bee Gees.
On August 18, 1971, it was certified Gold by the RIAA for a million copies shipped. The song continued to sell in the digital era. As of April 2016, the song has also sold an additional 1,203,000 downloads since it became available digitally.
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" an official state song of West Virginia, alongside three other pieces: "West Virginia Hills", "This is My West Virginia", and "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home". 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., in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland, where Denver often visited. That road — Clopper Road — still exists today, but the landscape has changed drastically from the bucolic scenery that once surrounded it.Hillary 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."
- John Denver – 6 & 12-string acoustic guitars, vocals
- Eric Weissberg – banjo, steel guitars
- Mike Taylor – acoustic guitar
- Richard Kniss – double bass
- Gary Chester – drums, percussion
|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.
- 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 Kid by the Toy Dolls, Blitzkrieg Bop, and other songs by KISS and Twisted Sister.
- "American single certifications – John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Road". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
- Bjorke, Matt (April 4, 2016). "The Top 30 Digital Country Singles: April 4, 2016". Roughstock.
- "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.
- "American certifications – John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Road". Recording Industry Association of America.
- "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 – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for John Denver. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
- "John Denver – 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
- Finan, Eileen (September 16, 2016). "The Story Behind Country Music's Epic Mash-Up! Plus: Hear Blake, Carrie, Miranda and 36 Other Stars Sing 'Forever Country'". People. Retrieved 21 September 2016.