John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” has become one of the best-known country songs throughout the world. Despite being released way back in 1971, it’s still a staple for karaoke and dueling piano bars.
Growing up in West Virginia, I heard this song more than the national anthem (despite the fact that the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenendoah River are really more prominent in Virginia and Maryland than West Virginia). Hell, they even made it the official state song of West Virginia in 2014. I still get a little nostalgic any time I hear it.
But I never knew that it was originally meant to be a Johnny Cash song.
The classic song was originally written by Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert during a drive through Maryland – having never set foot in West Virginia themselves. Later the duo played the song (that they were planning to sell to Johnny Cash) for John Denver. According to Denver, he told the writers that he had to have it for his next album. The trio then finished up the lyrics, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The song was released on Denver’s 1971 Poems, Prayers & Promises album, and has since become one of the most recognized songs in country music – not just in the United States, but around the world.
But we don’t have to wonder what the song would have sounded like had it actually made it into Johnny Cash’s catalog. Cash once joined Denver for a duet of “Country Roads,” showing off his deep baritone and classic storytelling style of performing that takes the song to a whole new level.
As they say up at WVU, cue “Country Roads.”