Dylan is the latest reader to add to our placed-based series:
My closely guarded secret is that I grew up in West Virginia not really liking John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” This is sacrilege. The song is deified in the Mountain State. It’s the official state anthem. (This is odd because the lyrics actually invoke geography—Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River—that actually describes the Commonwealth of Virginia, not West Virginia.)
Nevertheless, for the past 29 years, “Country Roads” has permeated my life. My first grade class performed it in the lunchroom, even accompanying it with sign language. During our high school trip to New York City, Jamaican steel drum players heard where we were from and ecstatically chimed out the tune unprompted. After moving out of state, it has become a common reference point when I was asked where I’m from. And every West Virginia wedding I go back for ends in everyone forming circle on the dance-floor, arms intertwined and singing, “Take me home, to the place, I belongggggggggg.”
But the song eventually caught up to me. Maybe it’s the charm of a gorgeous melody sung with quavering loneliness. Maybe it’s the lyric “almost heaven,” which recognizes the feeling of living somewhere that is simultaneously beautiful and undeniably impoverished. Maybe it’s the magic of a song that ushered me into adulthood, whether I liked it or not. Whatever it is, it worked.
For a few fantastic covers of that country song, check out our note featuring a reggae version from Toots and the Maytals and a German-language version by Dieter Dornig. Bring mich nach Hause!
Update from reader Jeremy, who can relate to hearing the German rendition up close: