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Song of the Moment: Rocky Mountain High

With the Democrats convening in Denver this week, let's take a look at the quintessential Colorado song - by John Denver.

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Released: 1973

Co-writer: Mike Taylor

Length: 4:12

Charts: Reached No. 9 on the US Hot 100 and No. 3 on the Easy Listening chart.

Wikipedia: Numerous radio stations cautiously banned the song until Denver publicly explained that the "high" was his innocent description of the sense of peace he found in the Rockies.

After years as an unofficial anthem for Colorado, on March 12, 2007, the Colorado General Assembly made Rocky Mountain High one of two official state songs, sharing the honor with "Where the Columbines Grow".

The song was also used in an advertisement for Colorado-based Coors

Snowmass, Colorado, a ski resort near Aspen, named a run "Rocky Mountain High," in honor of John Denver.

Songfacts: In Denver's autobiography, he wrote: "I remember, almost to the moment, when that song started to take shape in my head. We were working on the next album and it was to be called Mother Nature's Son, after the the Beatles song, which I'd included. It was set for release in September. In mid August, Annie and I and some friends went up to Williams Lake to watch the first Perseid meteor showers. Imagine a moonless night in the Rockies in the dead of summer and you have it. I had insisted to everybody that it was going to be a glorious display. Spectacular, in fact.

"The air was kind of hazy when we started out, but by ten p.m. it had grown clear. I had my guitar with me and a fishing rod. At some point, I went off in a raft to the middle of the lake, singing my heart out. It wasn't so much that I was singing to entertain anyone back on shore, but rather I was singing for the mountains and for the sky. Either my voice gave out or I got cold, but at any rate, I came in and found that everybody had kind of drifted off to their individual campsites to catnap. We were right below the tree line, just about ten thousand feet, and we hadn't seen too much activity in the sky yet. There was a stand of trees over by the lake, and about a dozen aspens scattered around. Around midnight, I had to get up to pee and stepped out into this open spot. It was dark over by those trees, darker than in the clearing. I looked over there and could see the shadow from the starlight. There was so much light from the stars in the sky that there was a noticeable difference between the clearing and everywhere else. The shadow of the starlight blew me away. Maybe it was the state I was in. I went back and lay down next to Annie in front of our tent, thinking everybody had gone to sleep, and thinking about how in nature all things, large and small, were interwoven, when swoosh, a meteor went smoking by. And from all over the campground came the awed responses "Do you see that?" It got bigger and bigger until the tail stretched out all the way across the sky and burned itself out. Everybody was awake, and it was raining fire in the sky.

"I worked on the song - and the song worked on me - for a good couple of weeks. I was working one day with Mike Taylor, an acoustic guitarist who had performed with me at the Cellar Door and had moved out to Aspen. Mike sat down and showed me this guitar lick and suddenly the whole thing came together. It was just what the piece needed. When I realized what I had - another anthem, maybe; a true expression of one's self, maybe - we changed the sequencing of the album we'd just completed, and then we changed the album title."

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"He was born in the summer of his 27th year" - John was 27 that summer.

"Coming home to a place he'd never been before" - He and Annie had just made Aspen home.

"And he lost a friend but kept his memory" - A good friend from Minnesota had come to visit and was killed riding John's motorcycle.

"Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more" - This referred to the debate at that time about bringing the Olympics to Colorado. (thanks to Mary and Pam at john-denver.org)."

LYRICS:
He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
On the road and hangin' by a song
But the string's already broken and he doesn't really care
It keeps changin' fast and it don't last for long

But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Rocky mountain high (high in Colorado) rocky mountain high (high in Colorado)

He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below
He saw everything as far as you can see
And they say that he got crazy once, and he tried to touch the sun
And he lost a friend but kept his memory

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forests and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake

And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high (high in Colorado) rocky mountain high (high in Colorado)

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land

And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly
Rocky mountain high

It's a Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody's high
Rocky mountain high (high in Colorado) rocky mountain high (high in Colorado)
Rocky mountain high (high in Colorado) rocky mountain high do de do

YouTube:

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Previously in Song of the Moment:
* Iron Man
* The Story of Bo Diddley
* Teach Your Children
* Dream Vacation
* When The Levee Breaks
* I Kissed A Girl
* Theme From Shaft



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Posted on August 25, 2008


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PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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