DC songwriters perpetrate fraud upon unsuspecting listeners

Photo courtesy of
‘John Denver’s Greatest Hits’
courtesy of ‘thejcgerm’

Okay, the headline on this one is a total joke, but I’m going to stick to my gut this morning and go with it.  I couldn’t believe it as I drove across town, listening to WAMU, but it turns out that John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was:

A) Written here in DC in 1971
B) Was once about Massachussetts
C) Was written for Johnny Cash

Oh God. Really? Yes, Really.

The song that I’d learned to drunkenly love as it was strummed out on the tiny stage at Four Courts by whichever guitar player had the stage that night, had no ties to West Virginia to whatsoever?  Oh John Denver, you’re so full of it.

The song was written in a Georgetown apartment in 1971 by Bill Danoff and his girlfriend Taffy Nivert, just five years before they’d go on to commit the single greatest act of musical atrocity in the modern era by forming the Starland Vocal Band, and writing the song Afternoon Delight.  This, of course, means only one thing:

So, while it’s hard to stay mad at John Denver, I definitely find it quite hilarious that the unofficial anthem of West Virginia is as much about Massachusetts as it is about the Mountaineer state.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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12 thoughts on “DC songwriters perpetrate fraud upon unsuspecting listeners

  1. The story I had heard was that it was inspired by Clopper Road in Montgomery County which was then rural.

  2. You can see the gold record for it in the Clyde’s in Georgetown. Random, but true.

  3. “…as much about Massachusetts as it is about the Mountaineer state” — how do you figure that?

  4. I don’t know that Country Roads had any connection to Massachusetts, but it definitely has none to West Virginia.

    The Shenandoah River flows through W.Va. only in that sliver of a panhandle near Harper’s Ferry, while the Blue Ridge mountains are not only completely inside Virginia proper, but on the other side of I-81. So basically the song is about western Commonwealth of Virginia.

    It’s still a great song though.

  5. @Justin & @Bill:

    Danoff admitted to NPR that the song had initially been inspired by his home state of Massachusetts, but West Virginia had the same syllable count and went a little better lyrically.

    Definitely still a good song.

  6. Bill Danoff was a student at Georgetown University who became the lights man at the legendary nightclub called The Cellar Door which was at 34th and M Streets in Georgetown. John Denver came to the Cellar Door early in his career as a replacement for Chad Mitchell of the Chad Mitchell Trio. Then he went out on his own. It was at the Cellar Door that Danoff befriended Denver. Today, Danoff teaches music at Georgetown University. John Denver died when he crashed his airplane. The Cellar Door closed a long time ago.

  7. @Tom Bridge: Just a fact correction based on the interview with Danoff. The song was not written about Massachusetts. Danoff said he COULD’VE written about his home state (the syllables would have fit), but he chose West Virginia instead because Massachusetts was “dorky.”

  8. Message for Bill … The final 20 miles of the Shenandoah River is entirely in West Virginia. The river’s main stem (below the forks) is only 57 miles. The crest of the Blue Ridge forms the Virginia-West Virginia state boundary near Harper’s Ferry, the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail, which follows the same crest.