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Take Me Home, Country Roads

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" is a song written by John Denver, Taffy Nivert, and Bill Danoff and initially recorded by John Denver.  It was included on his 1971 breakout album Poems, Prayers and Promises; the single went to #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Take Me Home Country Roads It became one of John Denver's most popular and world-wide beloved songs, and is still very popular around the world, considered to be John Denver's own signature song.  It also has a prominent status as an iconic symbol of West Virginia; for example, it was played at the funeral memorial for U.S. Senator Robert Byrd in July 2010.

Origins

In December 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 post-Christmas re-opening night (the 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.

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" appeared on the LP Poems, Prayers, and Promises and was released as a 45 in the spring of 1971. 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 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 House of Delegates and Senate to change the state song of West Virginia to "Take Me Home, Country Roads".  So far, such resolutions have not carried.

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.

Similarly, the vast majority of the Blue Ridge also lies outside the state. According to a radio interview with Nivert, the road that inspired the song is nowhere near the state. It is a road close to her native Washington, D.C., in 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.'"

The song was played at the funeral memorial for Senator Robert Byrd at the State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia on July 2, 2010.


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