We like to call John Denver our Colorado treasure, but he is loved all over the world. This year, is the 50th anniversary of the “Rocky Mountain High” album — and the release of his most famous song “Rocky Mt High” in 1972 — and this week is the 25 anniversary of his death in 1997.
Maybe you were around in the 1970s, and enjoyed him as one of its biggest artists, or you were exposed to him many years later… his songs will be around for our kids and grandkids to enjoy, such as “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane,” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders.”
“Rocky Mountain High” was ubiquitous on Colorado and national airwaves in 1972-1973. And, probably more so in Colorado because of its specific reference to the high that our mountains give us. The song became so pervasive that the Colorado Legislature voted to make it the “second official state song” in 2007. (The official song is “Where the Columbines Grow.”)
He performed “Rocky Mt High” at Red Rocks Amphitheatre as headliner in the summer of 1972, and, of course, returned many times. He was the very first inductee into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. Many also knew him for his tireless work as a humanitarian and environmentalist. And, when he died, the flags at the capital building were flown at half-mast.
In his later years, his sweet ballads clashed with the incoming New Wave, Hip Hop/Rap, Hair Metal and Electronic music, and he fell out of popularity. But those of us who experienced the emotion brought on by the songs will keep his songs alive and always have a soft spot in our heart for him.
I remember being in a small port town in Scotland a decade or two ago, and staying at a typical seaside, white-wood, very quaint and old hotel. My room was on the second floor, and I saw that most people left the door to their room open as they wandered downstairs, as if they were visiting a relative’s home. As I threw my luggage on the bed, I suddenly heard a familiar tune. It was a John Denver song. I had to immediately go down to the pub and see what was going on. In Britain, pubs are more for friends and family of all ages to gather in, and not as much a bar for singles partying or picking up a date. It was a small room, made of warm woods, and with one man and his guitar performing. I took a seat as he continued to sing more Denver tunes. I thought “Yes! Every country has ‘country roads’ that they remember fondly. This isn’t just an American song about a road in West Virginia.. Appalachia.”
You probably have your own memories attached to his songs… maybe about leaving a girlfriend or family… “So kiss me and smile for me, Tell me that you’ll wait for me, Hold me like you’ll never let me go.” Or closing your eyes as you lay outside and feel the sunshine on your face and shoulders… creating your own version of what the song lines mean. Leave a note below in Comments if you want to share a treasured moment.
So, head for your old album stash, or your favorite streaming service, and chose some Denver songs,…relax… and dream a little dream of Colorado mountains.
“Rocky Mt High” partial Lyrics
… He was born in the summer of his 27th year
… 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 the 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
Talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky Mountain high (Rocky Mountain high in Colorado)
Songwriters: John Denver / Mike Taylor
Rocky Mountain High lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Capitol CMG Publishing, Reservoir Media Management Inc, Warner Chappell Music, Inc
John Denver and Annie moved to Aspen three years before he wrote “Rocky Mt High.” They still honor him there every year: He said it took him nine months to write the song… inspired by his new home.
ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF JOHN DENVER, Aspen
Wrap Up on Their Web Page: This year 2022, we celebrated together during a beautiful fall in Aspen with sold-out Wheeler Opera House Concerts, special events, concerts at the Mountain Chalet and Aspen Chapel, sing-a-longs, a campfire, and a special luncheon/concert at the Pine Creek Cookhouse. Funds raised and were donated in John’s memory to Heifer International, Texas Blessings, and Aspen Deaf and Hard of Hearing Camp. Time was spent with new friends, old friends and honoring all John Denver gave to us with his music and words. Thanks to all the organizers, artists, and folks who came this year! WEB SITE