High on music

When I started this blog, I set out to share periodically words of the good writers, including song writers.

Yesterday I heard an old favorite on the radio and, as I was alone in a well sealed car, I sang loudly along.

John Denver wasn’t among my favorite artists growing up–I don’t think he was much of a singer–but I have always admired him as a song writer. There are a few of his songs I’m not particularly fond of, but there are many more that are outstanding and have endured over the decades.

I do miss the guy. I wonder, if he hadn’t died so young, what inspiring works he might have created as he matured.

My favorite John Denver song is “Rocky Mountain High.” I can’t say why exactly, as I’m not as moved by the outdoors as many people are. I’ve seen the Rockies and they’re lovely. But it’s just not my scene. Either way, musically and poetically, it’s a beautiful song.

“Rocky Mountain High” came out about the time my good friend Cathy moved to Boulder. Cathy would be the first of us to see the Rockies, while the rest of us knew about them only from the song.

Each time I hear it, I hear something new in the lyrics. There was some controversy when the song first came out and the FCC tried to have it banned from the air for its possible drug reference. It has been written that Denver explained publicly—including in congressional hearings—that the “high” was simply the sense of peace he found in this mountain setting.

No matter, Denver can paint a picture with simple words and phrases that are easy to sing along to. I am a terrible singer, but don’t hold back in the car. Yesterday I was thrilled, after months of effort to heal my lungs, to be able to hold those long notes as long as John Denver did, even though I know I sounded awful. That’s the beauty of a Bose nine-speaker sound system that can drown out its owner.

Here, you try it. This isn’t the best version vocally, but the only other clip I found omitted my two favorite verses.

Rocky Mountain High
Words by John Denver; Music by John Denver and Mike Taylor

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 lullaby
Rocky mountain high

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 forest 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

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 Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high
Rocky mountain high

1 Comment

Filed under All Things Wordish, Music

One response to “High on music

  1. Paul Pinkston

    Interesting that the FCC complained about “Rocky Mountain High,” when in “Poems, Prayers and Promises” he has the lyrics “While all my friends and my old lady sit and pass the pipe around.”

    There’s only one way to take that.

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