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Almost Heaven

Impact of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’

Many West Virginians, when returning to their beloved Mountain State, share a tradition of playing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” when crossing the state line, singing along to the state’s unofficial anthem.

We all know the impact the song has had on West Virginia, providing a sense of pride and identity to our state and its residents. However, what many may not realize is that it’s not just a song for West Virginians, but one that everyone can relate to as they yearn for home.

Sarah Morris, an English professor at West Virginia University who has studied the broader impact of Denver’s song, told those in attendance last week at the Ohio County Public Library’s Lunch with Books program that the song “evokes a kind of nostalgia … for an idealized, unrealistic memory, associated with perpetual homesickness.”

“Country Roads has this distinctive, simple melody that’s easily sung, with a message of universal heartache for a home, whether the listener is from West Virginia or not,” she said. “… It’s a felt sense for a place, a person, a home we know, but an idealized home. One that we can’t quite return to, but the home of our memories and hearts that exists in a tangible space.

“When we think about the home in Country Roads, it’s not about the house or the town or the state … where we grew up, but the place we belong. … Country Roads gives us a framework to talk and think about our identity as West Virginians in a new way, and it can influence the stories that we tell about ourselves.”

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