Using the quarantine time to get the garden ready at my family farm (The Shire Farm, West Suffield) while listening to some country music.
Let me tell you some interesting country music facts. One of the best country songs of all time, “Take me home, country roads”, was written by a guy from Springfield, Massachusetts, 5 miles from here. Bill Danoff. He wrote the song with his wife, Taffy Nivert, and was inspired to write it when he was driving a car on a country road in Maryland and “the radio reminds of my home far away”, home being Springfield, MA. Neither he or his wife have ever been in West Virginia prior to writing the song.
He originally meant the song to be about Massachusetts, (both four syllables) but there already was a song about Massachusetts (Bee Gees) , and it also just does not roll that good. So he switched it to West Virginia. Why? Well, he claims he had some friends from there (first husband of Susan Sarandon, Chris Sarandon) that told him so many nice things about it…
The two of them, husband and wife, were at the time playing in a band Fat City with John Denver, but they were planning to sell this particular song to Johnny Cash. Then, one night a lot of crazy things happened (some alcohol must have been involved) and John Denver broke his thumb and had it put into a cast and Danoff and Taffy played the song that they were working on to him and he “flipped” and said he had to have this song.
John Denver (Henry Deutschendorf Jr.) had never been to West Virginia either. They had to use the encyclopedia they had on hand (there was no Google back then) to find something about West Virginia to put in the song (they tried for hours to work in Rhododendron, the state flower). Now, they might have opened the encyclopedia on the wrong page or something, because “Blue Ridge Mountain, Shenandoah river” are not what West Virginia is famous for (state of Virginia is), and only a sliver of those landmarks goes through a corner part of West Virginia, but they still left it in. The three of them worked on the song until 6 AM.
They finished it a few days later, December 30 1970 – and later that same night Denver called them on the stage to sing it with him for the first time. He was singing it from a handheld piece of paper.
The standing ovation was said to have been 5 minutes long. This song became Denver’s biggest hit and his signature song. It is also an official West Virginia state anthem (one of 4).
Danoff and Taffy never complained about Denver appropriating the song. Danoff had another hit years later, he wrote and performed “Afternoon Delight” (check the cover of the song in Anchorman). Danoff wrote a few more hits for other singers and bands and taught a course on songwriting at Georgetown University as recently as 2008.
Then again, one of the first songs young Denver wrote was also “taken” from him and turned into a giant hit (their biggest hit) for Peter, Paul and Mary : “Leaving on a Jet Plane”. He recorded it later on his Greatest Hits album, but it somehow just does not sound right.
I bet there are more songs out there, great songs that can’t get out to us just because they are written by Nobody from Nowhere, Massachusetts. And the internet feed of young people is filled with Kardashian news and shitty music, blocking any chance for Nobody to get through. Take a chance today and go check Youtube channel by someone not already famous. Let me know.