Everybody’s High

It’s official. John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” will share equal billing with the old classic “Where the Columbines Grow” as Colorado’s official songs.

Senate Joint Resolution 23 was adopted on Monday, after lawmakers gathered ’round a campfire of sorts to share their love of John Denver, old vinyl records, the Rocky Mountains, and how the song “in no way reflects or encourages drug use.” Rep. Nancy Todd, the primary House sponsor, talked about how, some years back she had the “distinct pleasure” of meeting Denver when he attended Faith Presbyterian Church with his mom Erma and sang a “very touching rendition” of “How Great Thou Art.”

“John Denver is for me an icon of what Colorado is,” said Todd, noting that “Rocky Mountain High” appears on 21 of Denver’s albums, including an old vinyl record she still has in her possession. The singer and songwriter, who lived in Aspen, died in a plane crash off the California coast 10 years ago.

The House floor discussion was filled with additional praise for Denver, and for the song that many have long associated with the beauty of Colorado. But the hearing would not have been complete without some pontification. 

Noting that she felt like “singing rather than speaking,” Rep. Debbie Stafford said she also supports the song. However, she asked that the resolution be amended so one of the last stanzas of the song – “Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high” – be defined to reflect its meaning is “elevation” and not pertaining to drug abuse.

Responded Todd: “When we look at the natural ability of getting high when going to the mountains,” Stafford’s amendment wasn’t necessary.

House Minority Leader Mike May then raised a “concern” over two other lines of the song: “Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more, More people, more scars upon the land.”

“This appears to be anti-homebuilders,” May said, to much laughter. “Did anyone ask (developers’ lobbyist) Steve Durham about this?”

(Reached later, Durham expressed no opposition to “Rocky Mountain High.” “I can assure you the homebuilders have no position on that whatsoever,” he said, “though we will take it up at our next legislative meeting…”

Ultimately, the resolution was approved, 50-11. But not before musician Jim Salestrom, who performed with Denver in the past, played a rendition of the song from the floor of the House.

Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com.