Music

Story Behind the Song: John Denver's 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' Was Inspired by Maryland

"Take Me Home Country Roads" is widely recognized as John Denver's signature song. Though not an instant success (it peaked at number two on the Billboard chart), it has grown into a beloved fan favorite. It's even an official state anthem for West Virginia. But did you know that the song was actually inspired by another state?

Bill Danoff and his wife, Taffy Nivert, wrote the classic song with help from Denver. Nivert grew up in the Washington D.C. area and one day she and Danoff were driving down an old road in Montgomery County, Maryland called Clopper Road, to visit some family members. Danoff started singing about the winding roads they were driving down (which have since changed) and it had a ring to it.

Though Danoff grew up in Massachusetts, he drew inspiration for the lyrics from his childhood. He grew up listening to radio programs which made him feel nostalgic, but his home state really didn't have the ring to it that its neighbor West Virginia did (though he had never even visited prior to writing the song). Danoff and Nivert performed with Denver at a club in D.C. called The Cellar Door. One night after a show, the three of them went to go have a "jam fest." The couple had originally wanted to sell their song to Johnny Cash, but they played it for Denver. He absolutely loved it and the trio stayed up all night changing up the lyrics and creating a masterpiece.

Read More: Remembering John Denver and His Country Music Legacy

Right before the song's official release in 1971, Denver sang the completed version for the first time at The Cellar Door. He received a five-minute standing ovation -- one of their longest of all time. The song was an immediate hit for West Virginians. It has been played at every West Virginia University Football game since 1972 as their theme song. In 2017, the West Virginia Tourism Office even obtained the rights to the song to boost their marketing.

Despite its unexpected inspiration, "Take Me Home Country Roads" is one of the most beloved country songs of all time. In 2016, the song was included in "Forever Country," a mashup of over 30 country artists, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association awards. 

 

"Take Me Home Country Roads" Lyrics

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growin' like a breeze
Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads
All my memories gather 'round her
Miner's lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye
Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads
I hear her voice in the mornin' hour, she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
Drivin' down the road, I get a feelin'
That I should've been home yesterday, yesterday
Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads
Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads
Take me home, down country roads
Take me home, down country roads

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Story Behind the Song: John Denver's 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' Was Inspired by Maryland