“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver
“Take Me Home, Country Roads”, most simply interpreted, serves as an ode to West Virginia, a somewhat ubiquitous, landlocked state found near the US eastern seaboard. But to note, none of the writers of this song were actually from West Virginia. In fact neither John Denver nor Bill Danoff had never even been to WV before putting this track together.
When this song was originally conceived, it was the thesis sentiment, not a specific location, which served as its basis. But it just so happened that as the song was structured, whatever location the writers did eventually choose had to be four syllables in length.
As such, they even considered using Massachusetts instead of West Virginia, with the latter actually being Danoff’s home state. But ultimately WV was chosen because in their minds, it sounded cooler.
That said, Denver and co. did then proceed to do the state some proper justice, as in namedropping actual locations (sort of) found therein, such as the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River.
Since the time this track was dropped over half a century ago, of course West Virginia has been urbanized/modernized accordingly. But it still houses enough scenic beauty, including this being the state in which the Appalachian Mountain range is concentrated. And indeed besides calling the backcountry his home, the vocalist also implies that his base is up on the mountains.
Meanwhile in the bridge, when John gets to mentioning a female voice on the radio, that was actually inspired by Danoff’s early days of listening to a radio station from West Virginia while he was living in Massachusetts, which relatively speaking isn’t really that far away.
But with all of that said, classic pieces such as this one tend to be such that most people familiar with it don’t really know the words beyond the chorus.
Owing to this, references to West Virginia aside, many listeners have adopted this piece to more simply speak to a person’s desire to in fact return to the earlier, simpler days of life or, as alluded to by one of Danoff’s explanations, coming home in general.
In fact this song was dropped during an era in which many Americans, even if they were city dwellers, could still recall their rural roots. And that is the fundamental sentiment we are dealing with here, not to say that the vocalist ever specifies he lives in the city, but it is made obvious that he finds relief, even if only in a nostalgic sense, in more natural settings.
John Denver (1943-1997) was a prominent folk/country musician of the late 20th century. Aside music, Denver was also engaged in other endeavors, such as acting and piloting, the latter of which ultimately took his life at the age of 53.
He dropped a plethora of album during his lifetime, amongst them being 1971’s “Poems, Prayers & Promises”, which is the earliest LP in his discography to have gone platinum. The success of that outing was largely a result of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.
Facts about “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” was released by RCA Records on 12 April 1971.
This track holds the distinction of being Denver’s first hit. Chart-wise, it most notably peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. As for certifications, it has achieved platinum status in both the US and UK.
In 2014, it was recognized as a state anthem for West Virginia and has been formally embraced by residents of said state on a number of different levels.
John Denver is credited with writing this song alongside Taffy Nivert and Bill Danoff (aka Bill & Taffy, a husband-and-wife team). The producers of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” are Milton Okun (1923-2016) and Susan Ruskin.
The working title of this song, when the writers originally registered it with ASCAP, was “Rhododendron” (i.e. the state flower of West Virginia).
In United States, this track has so far sold close to 2 million copies. In the United Kingdom it has sold over half a million units.
Popular Media Usage
This song, being an American classic, has enjoyed some popular media usage throughout the years. And amongst the well-known television shows it has appeared on are:
- Prison Break (2006)
- The Sopranos (2007)
- The Office (2009)
And even Mark Zuckerberg himself made personal use of it 2021.
The 2017 action spy comedy movie, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” makes use of this song. It is utilized during the scene where Merlin (Mark Strong) switching places with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) who accidentally stepped on a bomb. He sings “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to attract attention shortly before he gets blown to bits.
The science fiction action horror movie, “Alien: Covenant” featured the track in its trailer.
Sadie Logan (Farrah Mackenzie) performed the song in the 2017 American heist comedy movie, “Logan Lucky”.
This track was also used in the official trailer of 2019 American legal thriller movie, “Dark Waters”.
Covers of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
Hermes House Band, an act from the Netherlands, covered this song to notable chart success in 2001.
Spank’s version was featured in the 2018 video game “Fallout 76”.