Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rocky Mountain High

Nearly ten years after the untimely death of seventies folk music icon John Denver, his hit song, Rocky Mountain High has been adopted as a co-state song. The Colorado legislature yesterday approved adding Denver’s famous tune, so now it officially joins Where The Columbines Grow, as a state song.

The change was not without controversy. Some legislators wanted to add a disclaimer that the song’s status in no way is an endorsement of drug use. For many years, some have claimed the song is a not so subtle endorsement of marijuana, because of the line, “Friends around the campfire, and everybody’s high”. Denver himself always claimed the song was about being high on the natural beauty of the state. Like any artistic work, I suppose the meaning can be in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. In any case, the proposed disclaimer was rejected.

The song itself has been a standard since its release, and has even been used in a advertising campaign by Coors Brewing Company, which touts its product being made from pure Rocky Mountain spring water. The part of the song I have always thought was creative was the contrasts in the first few lyrics; the actual impossibility of them if taken literally, but full of meaning if taken allegorically.

He was born in the summer of his twenty seventh year,
Going home to a place he’d never been before.

Oddly enough, one of Denver’s other hit songs became the unofficial anthem of another state, as well as giving it one of its promotional slogans. Take Me Home, Country Roads, starts out:

Almost Heaven, West Virginia.

John was right about one thing; even though they are separated by 1500 miles, Colorado and West Virginia are two states of immense natural beauty.

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