Take Me Home, Country Roads
|"Take Me Home, Country Roads"|
|Single by John Denver|
|from the album Poems, Prayers & Promises|
|Released||April 12, 1971|
|Recorded||January 1971, New York City|
|John Denver singles chronology|
"Take Me Home, Country Roads", also known as "Take Me Home" or "Country Roads", is a song written by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver about West Virginia. It was released as a single performed by Denver on April 12, 1971, peaking at number 2 on Billboard's US Hot 100 singles for the week ending August 28, 1971. The song was a success on its initial release and was certified Gold by the RIAA on August 18, 1971, and Platinum on April 10, 2017. The song became one of John Denver's most popular and beloved songs. It has continued to sell, with over 1.6 million digital copies sold in the United States. It is considered to be Denver's signature song.
The song has a prominent status as an iconic symbol of West Virginia, which it describes as "almost Heaven". In March 2014, it became one of the four official state anthems of West Virginia.
In 1970, under the name "Fat City", Danoff and his then-wife, Mary ("Taffy") Nivert (pronounced with a long 'I') co-wrote a song called "I Guess He'd Rather Be in Colorado." Alan Cowell, manager of the DC club Cellar Door, where Danoff had worked as a sound and light man while attending Georgetown University, recommended it to Colorado transplant John Denver. Ultimately, "Take Me Home, Country Roads", was the result. 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 they were driving along Clopper Road  to a Nivert family reunion in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland. According to a radio interview with Nivert, the road is close to Washington, D.C., where Denver often worked. To pass the time en route, Danoff had made up a ballad about the little winding roads they were taking. He had even briefly considered using "Massachusetts" rather than "West Virginia" as both four-syllable state names would have fit the song's meter. Today, the landscape around Clopper Road has changed drastically and little resembles the countryside scenery that once surrounded it.
According to Danoff, the part of the song that is quintessential West Virginia is the verse referring to the radio. Danoff says that comes directly from his childhood in the 1950s listening to the program Saturday Night Jamboree on Wheeling's WWVA from his home in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Danoff had some other West Virginia associations to draw from as well. He became friends with actor Chris Sarandon, a Beckley native who was once married to actress Susan Sarandon, as well as a group of hippies from a West Virginia commune who used to sit in the front row of the little clubs in which his band used to play.
“They brought their dogs and were a very colorful group of folks, but that is how West Virginia began creeping into the song,” Danoff said. “I didn’t want to write about Massachusetts because I didn’t think the word was musical. And the Bee Gees, of course, had a hit record called Massachusetts, but what did I know?”
Starting December 22, 1970, John Denver was heading the bill at The Cellar Door, a Washington, D.C. club. Fat City opened for him. 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 Bill's 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.
The bridge to the song was still missing, so the three of them began finishing the song in the living room of Danoff's apartment. Taffy got out an encyclopedia to learn a little more about West Virginia, and the first thing that came up was the Rhododendron, the state flower, so she kept trying to work the word Rhododendron into the song. Rhododendron was actually the title that Taffy had written down on the lyric sheet, which they later sent to ASCAP.
The geographical features named in the first verse of the lyrics - Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River - which are more prominent in the state of Virginia than in West Virginia, can be found in Jefferson County, West Virginia.
When they finished, Denver announced that the song had to go on his next album.
The song's first public performance was on December 30, 1970, during 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 January 2020, the song has also sold an additional 1,591,000 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 it has been performed during every home football pregame show since 1972.
On September 6, 1980, at the invitation of West Virginia Governor Jay Rockefeller, songwriters Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver performed the song during pregame festivities to a sold-out crowd of Mountaineer fans. This performance marked the dedication of the current West Virginia University Mountaineer Field and the first game for 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 adopt "Take Me Home, Country Roads" as an official state song. 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, 2014.
On November 1, 2017, the West Virginia Tourism Office announced it had obtained the rights to use “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” in its marketing efforts. “‘Country Roads’ has become synonymous with West Virginia all over the world,” said West Virginia Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby. “It highlights everything we love about our state: scenic beauty, majestic mountains, a timeless way of life, and most of all, the warmth of a place that feels like home whether you’ve lived here forever or are just coming to visit.”
- John Denver – vocals, 6 & 12-string acoustic guitar
- Bill Danoff - backing vocals
- Taffy Nivert - backing vocals
- Eric Weissberg – banjo, steel guitar
- 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|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||600,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,591,000|
sales+streaming figures based on certification alone
Hermes House Band version
|Single by Hermes House Band|
|from the album The Album|
|Hermes House Band singles chronology|
In 2001, the song was covered by Dutch pop band Hermes House Band and released as "Country Roads". This version was a chart success in Europe, reaching number one in Scotland, number two in Germany and Ireland, and the top 10 in Austria, Denmark and the United Kingdom. The band performed the song live on Top of the Pops.
|Dutch CD single|
|1.||"Country Roads" (original radio edit)||3:22|
|2.||"Country Roads" (happy dance version)||3:20|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||4|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||23|
|Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)||21|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||2|
|Ireland Dance (IRMA)||1|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||27|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||17|
|Scotland (Official Charts Company)||1|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||35|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||7|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||18|
|Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)||96|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||10|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||121|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
Olivia Newton-John versions
- Olivia Newton-John recorded a cover version in 1973 that reached the number 6 in Japan and the number 15 in the UK, but only reached No. 119 in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100.
Toots and the Maytals version
A Japanese language cover of the song, sung by Yōko Honna, was made for the 1995 anime film, Whisper of the Heart. The song, which plays a part in the plot of the film, is humorously renamed "Concrete Roads" and reflects on Honna's character's hometown in western Tokyo. The Olivia Newton-John version also plays during the opening of the film. Another Japenese cover is a punk version by Going Steady and is called the Tokyo Kid.
Fallout 76 version
A cover version of the song, a collaboration between Copilot Music and Sound and the vocal group Spank, was commissioned for and featured in both the teaser and full E3 2018 trailers for the 2018 video game, Fallout 76, whose plot events are set in West Virginia. Released as an iTunes-only single on July 4, 2018, the song reached #1 on the iTunes singles chart. It debuted at #41 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart that week and at #21 on Billboard's Country Digital Songs the following week. The official YouTube upload of the original John Denver recording, initially uploaded in 2013, would later edit its description in response to the song's use for the game. In Australia, a promotional Fallout 76 vinyl featuring the cover was included with the December 2018 issue of STACK Magazine exclusively from retailer JB Hi-Fi.
|US Country Digital Songs (Billboard)||21|
|US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)||41|
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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
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John Denver, Bill Danoff, and Taffy Nivert performing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" at the opening of West Virginia University's Mountaineer Field September 6, 1980. This audio recording includes the introduction by John Denver followed by the full song as recorded by WVAQ with Jack Fleming announcing.
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John Denver's official audio for 'Take Me Home, Country Roads', as featured on Fallout 76.
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