Rocky Mountain High

Ryan Palko `14

Around the hallways and at football games you may her people singing the refrain, “country roads, take me home/ to the place where I belong / West Virginia mountain mamma / take me home, country roads” This song titled “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was composed by John Denver and is probably his most famous song.  As with many great artists, their work is ingrained in American culture. I will not be discussing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in this music review but I will be taking a look at Denver’s sixth studio album titled, “Rocky Mountain High.”

John Denver is a western folk/country artist of the 1970s. His music is about the wilderness and encouraging people to go outside and experience creation. This music is the tone of the West. The qualities of the music, a soft melody and a folk guitar embody the western American principles of freedom and peace. He loved his home state of Colorado and wrote many songs about her. The state even adopted the song “Rocky Mountain High” as one of its state songs in 2007. John Denver is a simple songwriter composing folk melodies that focus on his voice. His personal life was riddled with drug abuse. He died at the age of 53 in a plane accident.

His music is the West. The following is a personal anecdote about my encounter with John Denver’s music. This helps gain an understanding about how I feel about his work. When I was on vacation during summer 2012, we made a trip to Colorado. On this trip we explored the Wild West, nature and listened to a John Denver impersonator in Estes Park. The guy’s name was Cowboy Brad and he stood on a little block of concrete and played his acoustic guitar for about an hour for free. He was everything that John Denver stood for: wild, care free and experiencing nature. This was my first connection to John Denver. How fitting was it that I connect with John Denver in the mountains of Colorado? Every time I listen to John Denver, the music evokes sweet memories for me. This music is folky and different from what is heard on the radio today. Folk music stresses the lyrics of the song more than the melodies. The lyrics are the heart of the music, the melodies are the soul.

The album titled “Rocky Mountain High” was released in 1972. Overall, the ratings vary for this album on allmusic.com. This album was rated well from a user standpoint, but critically not as well. This is exactly how I feel about this album. I think that critically, this album is mediocre, but it has value in its personal connection. Rhetorically, it connects with the audience very well. I feel this album deep inside of my person. The songs talk about loving life and nature. These two ideas connect with me very much. Thus, through this connection my feelings say this album is great because it has given me peace in my life. The songs of this album are a guy putting his feelings to music. This is given by evidence in the title track, “Rocky Mountain High,” and four season suites. In the song “Rocky Mountain High,” Denver writes about his love of Colorado. In the four suites of the seasons, he writes about his interpretations of the seasons. If these songs were to be put on the rhetorical triangle, they would lean toward pathos. Thus, this album may lack critical points for critical literary analysis of the lyrics, but the poetry that Denver writes connects with the audience. I argue that connection to the audience is all that matter in music, but, we will save that argument for another day. 30/40

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