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 the state of 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 a 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.
- 1 Background
- 2 Reception in West Virginia
- 3 Personnel
- 4 Charts
- 5 Certifications
- 6 Hermes House Band version
- 7 Olivia Newton-John versions
- 8 Fallout 76 version
- 9 References
- 10 External links
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 along Clopper Road in nearby Maryland. 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 countryside scenery that once surrounded it. 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.
Danoff says some of his late 1960s excursions to western Maryland with his girlfriend (and later first wife Taffy Nivert) provided the genesis for the song. It was during his subsequent drives to Maryland that the phrase Country Roads began to stick with him.
“I just couldn’t get that phrase out of my head, so that’s where that phrase stems back from,” he said. “My whole life I’ve enjoyed being out for rides on those roads, and I thought this is probably a universal experience.”
At the time, Danoff was only 24 when the words to the song were first formulating in his mind. The part that is quintessential West Virginia, to Danoff, is the verse “I hear her voice in the morning hour she calls me, the radio reminds me of my home far away.”
“It was a powerful station and we got it clearly in Springfield at nighttime,” he said. “We used to call it hillbilly music in those days, and I think the people who did it called it hillbilly music, too.”
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. 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.
The bridge to the song was still missing, so the three of them, fueled by a little 60s late-night inspiration, 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.
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, 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 December 2018, the song has also sold an additional 1,498,000 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. In 1977, Denver sang it at Morgantown High School, and he even changed the wording to "Appalachian Mountains, Monongahela River".
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.
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)||Silver||250,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,498,000|
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
- "Country Roads" (original radio edit) – 3:22
- "Country Roads" (happy dance version) – 3:20
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||4|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||23|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||2|
|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|
|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 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.
Fallout 76 version
A cover version of the song—a collaboration between Copilot Music + 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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