Take Me Home, Country Roads

"Take Me Home, Country Roads", also known simply 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 two 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.[2] 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.[3]

"Take Me Home, Country Roads"
John Denver with Fat City take me home country roads 1971 A-side US vinyl.jpg
Side A of the US single
Single by John Denver
from the album Poems, Prayers & Promises
B-side"Poems, Prayers and Promises"
ReleasedApril 12, 1971 (1971-04-12)
RecordedJanuary 1971, New York City
GenreCountry[1]
Length3:17
LabelRCA
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
John Denver singles chronology
"Friends With You"
(1971)
"Take Me Home, Country Roads"
(1971)
"Everyday"
(1972)
Audio
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" (audio) on YouTube

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.

CompositionEdit

Inspiration for the song had come while Nivert and Danoff, who were married, were driving along Clopper Road in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland to a Nivert family reunion in Gaithersburg.[4] 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 due to development and little resembles the countryside scenery that once surrounded it.[5]

To Danoff, the lyric "(t)he radio reminds me of my home far away" in the bridge is quintessentially West Virginian, an allusion to when he listened to the program Saturday Night Jamboree, broadcast from Wheeling, West Virginia, on WWVA at his home in Springfield, Massachusetts during his childhood in the 1950s.[6]

Danoff had some other West Virginia associations to draw from as well. He became friends with actor Chris 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 groups used to play:[6] "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?".[6]

Starting December 22, 1970, Denver was heading the New Year's bill at The Cellar Door, with Fat City opening for him, just as Denver had opened at the same club for then headliner David Steinberg. After the club's post-Christmas reopening night on Tuesday, December 29 (Cellar Door engagements ran from Tuesday to Sunday and this booking was for two weeks), the three headed back to the couple's apartment for an impromptu jam. On the way, Denver's left thumb was broken in a collision. He was rushed to the emergency room, where the thumb was put in a splint. By the time they got back to the apartment, he was, in his own words, "wired, you know."[citation needed]

When Danoff and Nivert ran through what they had of the song they had been working on for about a month, planning to sell to Johnny Cash, Denver "flipped." He decided he had to have it, prompting them to abandon plans for the sale.[citation needed] The verses and chorus were still missing a bridge, so the three of them went about finishing.

Nivert got out an encyclopedia to learn a little more about West Virginia, and the first thing that came upon was the Rhododendron, the state flower, so she kept trying to work the word Rhododendron into the song. Rhododendron was the title that Nivert had written down on the lyric sheet, which they later sent to ASCAP.[6] The three stayed up until 6:00 a.m., changing words and moving lines around.[7]

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.[8]

When they finished, on the morning of Wednesday, December 30, 1970, Denver announced that the song had to go on his next album.[7] Later that night, during Denver's first set, Denver called his two collaborators back to the spotlight, where the trio changed their career trajectories, reading the lyrics from a single, handheld, unfolded piece of paper. The resulting ovation is said to have been five minutes long and was certainly one of the longest in Cellar Door history.[citation needed] The next day was Denver's 28th birthday. They recorded it in New York City in January 1971.

Commercial performanceEdit

"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.[9] The song continued to sell in the digital era. As of January 2020, the song has also sold 1,591,000 downloads since it became available digitally.[3]

Reception in West VirginiaEdit

"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 Danoff, Nivert, and 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.[10]

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.[11]

The song was played at the funeral for West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd at the state capitol in Charleston, West Virginia on July 2, 2010.[12]

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".[13] Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed the resolution into law on March 8, 2014.[14]

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." The opening phrase of the song, "Almost heaven", became a primary tourism office slogan.[15]

The Mountain State Brewing Company based in Thomas, West Virginia produces an amber ale named "Almost Heaven," which it says is "named after John Denver's ode to West Virginia, Country Roads".[16]

PersonnelEdit

ChartsEdit

Chart (1971) Peak
position
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[17] 3
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[18] 5
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[19] 17
US Billboard Hot 100[20] 2
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[21] 3
US Hot Country Singles (Billboard)[22] 50

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[23] Gold 25,000 
United Kingdom (BPI)[24] Platinum 1,000,000 
United States (RIAA)[2] Platinum 1,591,000[3]

  Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Cover versionsEdit

Hermes House Band versionEdit

"Country Roads"
 
Single by Hermes House Band
from the album The Album
Released2001
Length3:22
Label
  • XPLO Music (Netherlands, UK)
  • various (international)
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Jim Binapfl
  • John Lehmkuhl
  • Mark Snijders
  • Jack Buck
Hermes House Band singles chronology
"Disco Samba Part II"
(2000)
"Country Roads"
(2001)
"Que Sera Sera"
(2001)

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.

Track listingsEdit

Dutch CD single[25]
No.TitleLength
1."Country Roads" (original radio edit)3:22
2."Country Roads" (happy dance version)3:20
Belgian CD single[26]
No.TitleLength
1."Country Roads" (original radio edit)3:22
2."Country Roads" (happy dance version)3:20
3."Country Roads" (karaoke version)3:20
European and Australian maxi-single[27][28]
No.TitleLength
1."Country Roads" (original live radio version)3:22
2."Country Roads" (original radio version)3:22
3."Country Roads" (dance radio version)3:20
4."Country Roads" (happy party radio version)3:20
5."Country Roads" (original live extended version)4:24
6."Country Roads" (dance extended version)4:14
7."Country Roads" (happy party extended version)4:26
UK enhanced CD single[29]
No.TitleLength
1."Country Roads" (original radio version)3:22
2."Country Roads" (original live extended version)4:24
3."Country Roads" (dance extended version)4:14
4."Country Roads" (video)3:22
UK cassette single[30]
No.TitleLength
1."Country Roads" (original radio version)3:22
2."Country Roads" (original live extended version)4:24
3."Country Roads" (original dance extended version)4:14

ChartsEdit

CertificationsEdit

Certifications and sales for "Country Roads"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Germany (BVMI)[49] Platinum 500,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[50] Silver 200,000 

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
  Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Olivia Newton-John versionEdit

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.[citation needed]

Ray Charles versionEdit

American singer Ray Charles recorded a version of the song on his 1972 album A Message from the People.

Lynn Anderson versionEdit

Country music singer Lynn Anderson recorded a version of the song on her 1971 studio album "How Can I Unlove You" which reached the number 2 position on the Top Country Albums chart — one of the most successful albums Anderson released during her career.

Toots and the Maytals versionEdit

Jamaican ska/reggae band Toots and the Maytals covered the song, with different lyrics, on their 1973 album In the Dark, the track also later included on the 1975 U.S. release of Funky Kingston. Their cover of the song was influenced by Ray Charles' rendition, since the two versions share more similarities regarding the structure, melody and tone than they do with the original version.

Roy Acuff versionEdit

Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys recorded a cover of the song in 1975 on their Smoky Mountain Memories album.[51]

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole versionEdit

Native Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwoʻole covered the song on his 1993 album Facing Future, featuring his personal rendition of the piece in relation to the Hawaiian Islands and his life there, mentioning West Mākaha and Mount Kaʻala.

Japanese versionEdit

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 Japanese cover is a punk version by Going Steady.

Kingsman: the Golden Circle versionEdit

A cover version of the song was performed by actor Mark Strong for the 2017 film Kingsman: The Golden Circle.[52] In the film, Merlin (played by Strong) sacrifices himself to save his compatriots by singing the song as a distraction.

Fallout 76 versionEdit

A cover version of the song, a collaboration between Copilot Music and Sound and the vocal group Spank,[53] was commissioned for and featured in both the teaser and full E3 2018 trailers for the 2018 video game Fallout 76, with its plot events are set in West Virginia.[54] Released as an iTunes-only single on July 4, 2018, the song reached No. 1 on the iTunes singles chart.[55] It debuted at No. 41 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart that week and at No. 21 on Billboard's Country Digital Songs the following week.[55] 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.[56] 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.[57]

Charts
Chart (2018) Peak
position
US Country Digital Songs (Billboard)[55] 21
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[55] 41

ReferencesEdit

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  3. ^ a b c Bjorke, Matt (January 25, 2020). "Top 30 Digital Country Downloads: January 24, 2020". Rough Stock. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
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  5. ^ Kaltenbach, Chris (May 15, 2019). "It was Maryland that inspired 'Take Me Home, Country Roads'". AP News. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d "Take Me Home, Country Roads". WVUSports.com. January 29, 2014. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Collis, John (September 30, 2011). John Denver: Mother Nature's Son. Mainstream Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-78057-330-4.
  8. ^ "Physiographic Provinces of West Virginia". Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  9. ^ "American certifications – John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Road". Recording Industry Association of America.
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  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 8, 2014. Retrieved March 7, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  16. ^ "Brews". Mountainstatebrewing.com. Archived from the original on January 4, 2012. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
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  52. ^ "No Time for Emotion". YouTube. May 14, 2020. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  53. ^ Hines, Pete (July 4, 2018). "IT'S FINALLY HERE. Download Country Roads cover now. It was recorded by our friends at CoPilot with a group out of New York called Spank. You've never heard of them, but maybe seen them performing on the streets of New York". Twitter. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  54. ^ Kuchera, Ben (June 11, 2018). "Fallout 76 has everyone humming John Denver". Polygon. Vox Media, Inc. Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  55. ^ a b c d Hampp, Andrew (July 31, 2018). "Songs for Screens: How a John Denver Classic Resurfaced Thanks to 'Fallout 76'". Variety. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  56. ^ "John Denver - Take Me Home, Country Roads (Audio)". YouTube. April 5, 2013. Retrieved October 11, 2018. John Denver's official audio for 'Take Me Home, Country Roads', as featured on Fallout 76.
  57. ^ Kolbe, Alesha (December 3, 2018). "Grab a FREE Fallout 76 vinyl with this month's STACK Magazine". stack.com.au. Archived from the original on December 5, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.

External linksEdit