It’s the Place Where We Belong

In some places, “George Washington Slept Here” is used to pull in the tourists.

Here in West Virginia, the more appealing claim might be that John Denver sang “Country Roads” here.

Time flies, doesn’t it? This year is the 50th anniversary of the song.

“Country Roads” is popular everywhere. A friend once told me that, while on a business trip to Japan, he mentioned he was from West Virginia. The Japanese present broke into a chorus of “Country Roads.”

So the music is good. The lyrics have wide appeal.

Why, though, have we West Virginians adopted it as our song?

Because of the chorus: Take me home, country roads, to the place I belong …

It wasn’t a new idea in 1970.

Other songs about West Virginia have something of the same theme. Part of “My Home Among the Hills” notes that, And though I may roam, I hurry home, To those friendly hills I love.

And “The West Virginia Hills” has a line: If o’er sea o’er land I roam, Still I’ll think of happy home, And my friends among the West Virginia hills.

“This is My West Virginia” refers to our state as the land I trust.

And, of course, there’s “West Virginia, My Home, Sweet Home.”

From what little I know about “Country Roads,” it’s doubtful Denver and the two others who wrote it (Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert) did much research on other West Virginia songs. Home was a theme that just happened. Somehow, Denver, Danoff and Nivert — none of them natives of the Mountain State — captured the essence of being a West Virginian.

I don’t think the song would have been anywhere near as popular among Mountain State residents (and natives living elsewhere) without it.

I’ve been told several times that many West Virginia natives living elsewhere still think of this as their home, no matter how long they’ve been away.

Each of us has different reasons for that, I suspect. Partly, it’s the people. Bad people are present everywhere, but if I’m among West Virginians, I know good people — by most definitions — are nearby.

Partly, it’s the place. Fill in your own details about that. If you’re a West Virginian, you have plenty.

Lots of other states have their attractions. But here’s the thing: Ask a West Virginian where, all other things being equal, he wants to live — and qualify that by telling him that, once settled, he’ll never be able to visit another state.

No wonder we like “Country Roads” so much. Almost Heaven really is the place we belong.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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