John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’ Was Supposed To Be This Famous Country Singer’s Hit


John Denver's Country RoadsJohn Denver's Country Roads

John Denver is famously associated with the song “Country Roads,” but unknownst to most, it was originally meant for Johnny Cash. The song is arguably the most popular of Denver’s career, and although it was not an immediate hit in 1971, it steadily rose to prominence over time.

Country Roads” has been covered by several country singers and was selected by the Library of Congress for the National Recording Registry. The song, written by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and Denver, has also become an anthem and state song of West Virginia.

What John Denver song was supposed to belong to Johnny Cash?

ALASKA: THE AMERICAN CHILD, John Denver, aired September 3, 1978. ©ABC/courtesy Everett Collection

Bill and Taffy assumed the finished song was hardly Denver’s kind of music, and it was only right to pitch it to Cash. Their bias did not stop them from playing it for Denver, who, without hesitation, decided to take it up. “Country Roads” was released with other tracks in the Poems, Prayers & Promises studio album produced by Milton Okun and Susan Ruskin.

The hit made room for Denver in the country genre, as there had been back-and-forths about his music style. Aside from “Country Roads,” he also released “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs charts in the mid-70s.


Denver and Cash performed together

Denver and Cash did “Country Roads” together for a VHS special in 1978. Footage of their collaboration got on the internet after a lucky person found a copy in their grandparents’ basement. The rare footage was posted on YouTube with the caption, “This is an old VHS video found by a boy in his grandpa’s basement. So sorry for the bad sound and video, but this was how it was recorded digitally from the VHS.”

John Denver, 1985

The clip got nearly 200,000 views and hundreds of comments from nostalgic fans. “Someone said that Cash’s voice is like the gravel road you are traveling on and that Denver’s is the blue sky above you,” someone remarked on the late duo’s synergy. “John Denver straight up harmonized with him instead of singing the melody, that’s musicianship,” another agreed.


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