Songs are like friends

Exercising a the gym today I listened to Rocky Mountain High, by John Denver, and the line

“Talk to God and listen to the casual reply”

struck me. JD had a special talent with words and imagery. I heard the song like first time ever, and it put me in a place, an attitude, and it added exuberance and understanding to my day.

Rocky Mountain High is Colorado’s second state song. Here is the first, one to which very few people know the melody:

Where the Columbines Grow
Written & Music by A.J. Fynn

Where the snowy peaks gleam in the moonlight,
above the dark forests of pine,
And the wild foaming waters dash onward,
toward lands where the tropic stars shine;
Where the scream of the bold mountain eagle,
responds to the notes of the dove
Is the purple robed West, the land that is best,
the pioneer land that we love.

Tis the land where the columbines grow,
Overlooking the plains far below,
While the cool summer breeze in the evergreen trees
Softly sings where the columbines grow.

The bison is gone from the upland,
the deer from the canyon has fled,
The home of the wolf is deserted,
the antelope moans for his dead,
The war whoop re-echoes no longer,
the Indian’s only a name,
And the nymphs of the grove in their loneliness rove,
but the columbine blooms just the same.


Let the violet brighten the brookside,
in sunlight of earlier spring,
Let the fair clover bedeck the green meadow,
in days when the orioles sing,
Let the golden rod herald the autumn,
but, under the midsummer sky,
In its fair Western home, may the columbine bloom
till our great mountain rivers run dry.

OK. Not all that bad, but a little overdone, too flowery and fluffy. It’s fairly typical fare for state songs coming out of the 19th and early twentieth century. But here is what I understand of poetry, which is not much: It is freeze-dried language that evokes images, emotion and meaning in as few words as a talented poet can use.

There was a lot of controversy about using Rocky Mountain High for the state song, especially the line

Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high.

If you don’t know what that means, you have not lived well, my friend.

So which is it?

Let the violet brighten the brookside,
in sunlight of earlier spring,
Let the fair clover bedeck the green meadow,
in days when the orioles sing,


And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high, Colorado.

No brainer, if you ask me, who was the better poet.

5 thoughts on “Songs are like friends

  1. John Denver is fantastic, and for me crosses generational divides. I liked John Denver when I was little, and my four year old has been singing and dancing to John Denver since she was only a year old. Just the other day I caught her singing “Spring”, from John Denver’s Season Suite.

    “And do you care what’s happening around you?
    Do your senses know the changes when they come?
    Do you see yourself reflected in the season?
    Do you understand the need to carry on?”


      1. the first song that grabbed me was Free Until They Cut Me Down from the album Our Endless Numbered Days. Love Vigilantes is another favorite of mine. Sam Beam is simply brilliant.


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