Rocky Mountain High - John Denver (1972)
Our LCM Classic this week 'Rocky Mountain High' is a folk rock song written by John Denver and Mike Taylor about Colorado and is one of the two official state songs. It was recorded by Denver in 1972 and went to #9 on the US Hot 100 in 1973. Denver told concert audiences in the mid-1970s that the song took him an unusually long nine months to write. On April 10, 2017, the song was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of 500,000 digital downloads. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time
"Rocky Mountain High" is primarily inspired by John Denver's move to Aspen, Colorado three years before its writing and his love for the state. The seventh stanza makes a reference to destruction of the mountains' beauty by commercial tourism. The song was considered a major piece of 1970s pop culture and became a well-associated piece of Colorado history.
The song briefly became controversial that year when the U.S. Federal Communications Commission was permitted by a legal ruling to censor music deemed to promote drug abuse. Numerous radio stations cautiously banned the song until Denver publicly explained that the "high" was his innocent description of the sense of peace he found in the Rockies. In 1985, Denver testified before Congress in the Parents Music Resource Center hearings about his experience:
"This was obviously done by people who had never seen or been to the Rocky Mountains, and also had never experienced the elation, celebration of life or the joy in living that one feels when he observes something as wondrous as the Perseid meteor shower on a moonless, cloudless night, when there are so many stars that you have a shadow from the starlight, and you are out camping with your friends, your best friends, and introducing them to one of nature's most spectacular light shows for the first time."
Photo credit: Tony Russell/Redfern/Getty