The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 14, 2014

‘Country Roads’

— Editor’s note: The Register-Herald’s parent company, Community Newpaper Holdings Inc., has papers all over the United States. Each Friday, this space will be dedicated to what one of those papers thinks about the issues facing the nation.

OK, it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” should be the official state song of West Virginia. Most folks already assume it is. The classic song is associated with the Mountain State around the world. It’s even played every time the WVU Mountaineers win a football or basketball game. So why isn’t it one of our official state songs?

Mercer County resident Dreama Denver, the widow of the late Bob Denver of “Gilligan’s Island” fame and head of the Denver Foundation, began pushing for “Country Roads” to become the state’s official song in 2012 through her morning radio show “Sunny Side Up.” With her help, the measure passed the House, but inexplicably wasn’t adopted by the Senate in 2012. Why?

Thankfully, Denver and volunteers with the Denver Foundation are now working with area lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer, to get the resolution reintroduced in the state Legislature. Its passage, as Denver Foundation volunteer Paul Dorsey puts it, should be “a no-brainer.”

“We are identified favorably all over the world by the lyrics of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads,’’’ Denver told the Daily Telegraph last week. “Their whole vision of West Virginia is tied up in the song all over the world. When the first four words are ‘Almost Heaven, West Virginia,’ that says it all, doesn’t it? I want to see this (resolution) happen.”

So do we. But as we have learned over the years, some things that would appear obvious to everyday citizens can often be endlessly debated by lawmakers both in Charleston, Richmond, Va., and Washington.

But what is there to debate when it comes to “Take Me Home, Country Roads”? The song is well known around the world. It’s been heard in many Irish pubs, in the Czech Republic, and even at the Great Wall of China. And it’s always associated with West Virginia.

When now U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., visited the nation of Thailand as governor of the Mountain State, Thailand’s prime minister started singing, “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” after introducing Manchin.

Need more examples? The song was also played at the funeral of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and singers Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. and Kathy Mattea performed it during West Virginia’s sesquicentennial. And besides being heard around the world, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” has been recorded in French, Finnish, Czech, Slovenia, Japanese and German. And while the version performed by the late John Denver might be the best-known rendition, “Country Roads” has also been performed by Loretta Lynn, Olivia Newton John, Skeeter Davis and Ray Charles.

Cole plans to reintroduce the measure in the Senate, and Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, plans to reintroduce it in the House.

The resolution would not eliminate any current state songs, Gearheart emphasizes. It would simply add “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to the list of official state songs.

If there is one thing that all lawmakers in Charleston should be able to agree upon — Democrats and Republicans — it should “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

There should be nothing to debate about this. Get it done — now. Make it one of West Virginia’s official songs.

— Bluefield Daily Telegraph