Rocky Mountain High

On October 25, 2011 · 3 Comments

One would be tempted to think that I’m a huge fan of the late John Denver given that I’ve featured his signature performances not once, but now a second time. I have a rather neutral feeling for his body of work, actually. His songs don’t inspire me but they don’t repel me either; they’re simply… there. If he hadn’t changed his surname to match a physical place (from Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.), and if he hadn’t recorded wildly popular ballads for two completely separate states (West Virginia & Colorado), then I guess I wouldn’t have to plaster him onto the Twelve Mile Circle in absentia. He really should have considered that and been a bit more courteous.

It started as it often does with a familiar refrain — and everyone should feel free to chant along in unison — when some random visitor left an interesting topic in my search query logs. It seems our anonymous visitor wanted to know if there was a John Street in Denver. Maybe he was a devoted fan who wished to make a pilgrimage to John, Denver. Maybe he was simply curious. I don’t know. I do know however, that after a cursory search, there doesn’t appear to be a John Street, Avenue, Place, Circle, Boulevard, or other any other likely combination. Neither does there appear to be a Jonathan or a St. John. Knowledgeable readers should feel free to correct me if they know differently.

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I did find Saint John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Denver. However, I’m fairly certain that “St. John Denver” would fall into the category of blasphemy.

Then, while checking further, I noticed a school.

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Rocky Mountain Lutheran High School is located in Northglenn, just north of Denver by about 15 miles. I guess one could claim that it’s "Rocky Mountain High" although I’m willing to wager they probably call it Rocky Mountain Lutheran. That would be a shame. Plus, one can’t actually see the Rocky Mountains from this location at least according to my quick check of Street View.

It would have been a great tribute: a (somewhat) Denver-ish facility called Rocky Mountain High. For those unfamiliar with the reference, Rocky Mountain High was one of John Denver’s more famous songs, released in 1972. It contained the refrain,

But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullaby
Rocky mountain high – Colorado

The third line of the refrain changes each time:

  • Talk to God and listen to the casual reply
  • Know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly
  • Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high

That last line generated a bit of controversy. Denver insisted that it wasn’t a drug reference when he testified before Al Gore’s U.S. Senate Committee in 1985. Al may not have invented the Internet but his wife Tipper can claim a key role in creating parental advisory warnings on musical compositions of a certain genre, thanks to Al’s political meddling and Tipper’s Parents Music Resource Center.

Speaking of warnings, one should be careful when searching for song lyrics on the Intertubes. I’ve rarely seen such a spammy, unsavory group of sites as they opened multiple advertising pages, attempted to sell ringtones, and behaved unethically in general. It’s one of those darker corners I visit only with strong protection and I don’t intend to go back regularly.

But I digress. Let’s return our focus to Denver, or at least to the state of Colorado since Denver itself appears bereft of further tributes.

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A better candidate reveals itself as I widen a circle 50-or-so miles from Denver’s convoluted boundaries. Rocky Mountain High School — legitimately Rocky Mountain High this time without any qualifiers — exists in Fort Collins, directly north on Interstate 25. It opened in 1973, the year following Denver’s song, and student committees were actively involved in making decisions about the school’s name, colors, and mascots. It leads me to believe, with absolutely no corroborating evidence, that it’s at least plausible for the school to be named in alignment with the song. Further, it’s only a short drive from Rocky Mountain National Park (my visit) and one can even catch a glimpse of the Front Range from school property.

I found other Rocky Mountain Highs in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. However, I think the title should still go to the one in Fort Collins. The song says, Rocky mountain high – Colorado.

Now if I could just find a way to get that infectious melody out of my head…


On October 25, 2011 · 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Rocky Mountain High”

  1. Kevin K says:

    I’m a regular lurker here. Imagine my surprise when my alma mater is featured!

    It is pretty much as the article says. I can remember asking my football coach, who had been teaching there since the school opened, if there was any correlation, and the response I got was “Not officially.” It seems that the naming board was indeed influenced by John Denver’s song, but not directly recognized as the inspiration for the school’s name.

    Another note I always found amusing was that the school is bordered on the east by Rocky Mountain Way, the title of a Joe Walsh song from the same era.

    RMHS Class of 1995. Go Lobos!

  2. Peter says:

    I’m surprised that Colorado didn’t have a Rocky Mountain High School until 1973. It seems like such an obvious choice of name 🙂

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