Most people associate John Denver with “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, but Brits of a certain age are more likely to think of Olivia Newton-John, who passed away last week.
Long before Grease brought her worldwide fame, and projects like “Xanadu” and “Let’s Get Physical” brought her worldwide chart success, Olivia Newton-John had a reasonably successful career in the UK recording country-infused songs at a time when country music was not at all popular.
One of those was her cover of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, which she took into the UK Top 20 in 1973. John Denver’s original didn’t get a sniff at the UK charts although, to be fair, his recording reached Number Two in the Billboard Hot 100, so I’m sure he was happy enough with that.
Despite being one of the 1970s most commercially successful recording artists, John Denver was a bit of a slow burn in the UK charts. In the US, he had four Top Five singles and two Top 20 singles between 1971 and 1973, but nothing on this side of the pond.
However, after “Annie’s Song” hit Number One in the UK in 1974, almost overnight he became just as popular in the UK as he already was in most of the rest of the world.
But before then, back when we didn’t know who John Denver was, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was a song we Brits came to associate with Oliva Newton-John, on the back of her Top 20 success with her cover.
In the US, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was John Denver’s breakthrough hit. The lead single from his 1971 album “Poems, Prayers and Promises”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” jump-started John Denver’s career as a performer.
Despite being a prolific songwriter, John Denver didn’t write “Take Me Home, Country Roads” himself, and didn’t discover the song until it was largely finished. That’s not to disrespect John Denver’s considerable songwriting talents, nor to minimise his contribution to writing this great song, it’s just to give Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert the recognition they deserve for their part in this story.
Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, who were married, started writing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” while driving back home for a family reunion.