Take Me Home, Country Roads


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 Vinyl record
Genre Folk rock, country
Writer(s) John Denver, Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert
John Denver singles chronology
"Friends With You"
(1971)
"Take Me Home, Country Roads"
(1971)
"Everyday"
(1972)
Olivia Newton-John chronology
"What Is Life"
(1972)
"Take Me Home, Country Roads"
(1973)
"Let Me Be There"
(1973)
Audio sample
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"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. 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.[1] 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.[2]

Contents

Origins

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5]

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 on July 2, 2010.[2]

Chart performance

Chart (1971) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 3
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 50
Canadian RPM Top Singles 3
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 5
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 17

Cover versions

  • Lynn Anderson recorded a cover for her 1971 album How Can I Unlove You.
  • Olivia Newton-John recorded a cover version in 1973 that reached the top 10 in Japan and the #15 in the UK, but only bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 119 in the United States. 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 the 1970s, Romanian singer Gil Dobrică recorded a version called "Hai acasă, hai cu mine" ("Let's go home, come with me")
  • French singer Marie Laforêt recorded an adaptation in French as "Mon pays est ici" (1972)
  • French singer Claude Francois recorded an adaptation of the song in French as "J'ai encore ma maison" (1973).
  • In 1975, Aleksander Mežek recorded a cover of "Country Roads" in Slovenian language and named it "Siva pot".
  • Another French singer Dick Rivers recorded this song in French in 1976 as "Faire un pont".
  • Israel Kamakawiwo'ole recorded a version for his 1993 album Facing Future in which West Makaha is substituted for West Virginia.
  • 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,[6] 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.[7]
  • There is a soca version from Trinidad by an unknown artist that is notoriously difficult to track down[8]
  • Hermes House Band recorded a cover and performed on Top of the Pops when the single was released in 2001.
  • The German children's band Die Lollipops did a cover to it called Dankeschön.
  • Multi-platinum selling artist and Grammy Award-winner Carrie Underwood performed the song during her massive Play On Tour in 2010. Underwood performed the song in the bed of a pick-up truck over the audience.
  • In 1994, this song was covered on a Disney's Sing-Along Songs video and DVD: "Campout at Walt Disney World".
  • Country music artist Daryle Singletary covered the song for his 2009 album "Rockin' in the Country".
  • In 2010, artist Steven Sweet recorded an Alternative Rock cover of "Country Roads" for his debut album, "Scratch on the Break"
  • Punk rock cover band, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, covered it for their album Have Another Ball.
  • In 2011, in preparation for the All Good Music Festival, the dj Pretty Lights sampled this song in a remix

In popular culture

  • The song (and writing alternate lyrics to it) is a plot point in the 1995 Japanese animated film Whisper of the Heart.[9]
  • On the show My Name is Earl, the Camdenites are shown singing it while working.
  • The song was used by NASA to wake up astronauts aboard space shuttle missions STS-5 and STS-41-G, both times on the last day of the mission before the crew returned to Earth.[10]
  • In the episode of Prison Break, "First Down", from Season 2, the song is sung by Tweener while travelling by car with Debra Jean.
  • In the episode of American Dad!, American Dream Factory, the song is sung by Steve and a family of Mexican immigrants at the Fourth of July Festival, parodying the concert scene in The Sound of Music.
  • At the end of the episode of The Sopranos Remember When, Uncle Junior sings the song with other residents of the hospital.
  • In the episode of The Office, "The Office - Michael Scott Paper Company", Dwight and Andy play the song together, as they each try to individually impress their co-worker Erin, but end up bonding, realizing their friendship. Notably, Dwight sings a portion in German.[11]
  • The song is a popular sing-a-long tune at Munich's annual Oktoberfest and can be heard numerous times each day throughout the various beer tents. The song is sung in English.
  • The song was played at the end of the funeral memorial for the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) on July 2, 2010 in Charleston, West Virginia in a blue grass fashion.
  • The song was sung by Dharma and Jane while traveling on Dharma's vision quest in an episode of Dharma and Greg
  • Fans of two English Premier League [association football] clubs, Manchester United and Fulham, sing versions of the song that replace "West Virginia" with their stadium names; Old Trafford and Craven Cottage, respectively.
  • Fans of the Colorado Rapids soccer club sing to the tune of the song, but change Country Roads to Mountain Roads, West Virginia to Colorado, and from mountain momma to "See the Rapids"
  • In a WWE house show in Wheeling, West Virginia, CM Punk and John Cena sang in a duet a rendition of the song to the WWE fans.

References

  1. ^ "John Denver - UNPLUGGED COLLECTION [IMPORT] Music CDs" (list), Choose, 2007, webpage: JD-Collect.
  2. ^ a b Garcia, Jon (July 2, 2010). "Eulogizing Sen. Robert Byrd: The Hard Working, if Imperfect, Senator". ABC News. http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2010/07/eulogizing-sen-robert-byrd-the-hard-working-if-imperfect-senator.html. 
  3. ^ "Bill's Music Heritage". Billdanoff.com. http://www.billdanoff.com/musicheritage.htm. 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 managment decision to be made whether there was an additional cover charge imposed for those inclined to linger through both sets.
  4. ^ "Take Me Home, Country Roads - she wrote it and sang on it, but you've never heard of her". Blogcritics.org. http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/01/29/211917.php. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  5. ^ "Welcome To | WVU Traditions | West Virginia University". Welcometo.wvu.edu. 2009-11-03. http://welcometo.wvu.edu/living_here/wvu_traditions. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  6. ^ Almost Heaven (2005) - IMDb
  7. ^ Heike Makatsch - IMDb
  8. ^ "Country Road, Trinidad". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lHfDmikCEI. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  9. ^ "FAQ // Whisper of the Heart //". Nausicaa.net. http://nausicaa.net/miyazaki/mimi/faq.html. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  10. ^ Fries, Colin (June 25, 2007). "Chronology of Wakeup Calls" (PDF). NASA. http://history.nasa.gov/wakeup%20calls.pdf. Retrieved 2007-08-13. "STS-5, STS-41-G" 
  11. ^ by BuzzSugar (2009-04-13). "The Office's New Opening Credits & Dueling "Country Roads"". Buzzsugar.com. http://www.buzzsugar.com/Offices-New-Opening-Credits-Dueling-Country-Roads-3022218. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 

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