Colorado History

The Ten Best Songs About Colorado by Coloradans

The version of the Flying Burrito Brothers that made "Colorado."
The version of the Flying Burrito Brothers that made "Colorado." YouTube
With all of Colorado ordered to stay home, we're celebrating some of the iconic movies, books and songs about this state. We've already share the best songs about Colorado; here are the ten best songs about Colorado written by actual residents of the state:

Flying Burrito Brothers
A highlight of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ third album, “Colorado” sprang from the pen of Rick Roberts, who would go on to form Firefall in Boulder and achieve country-rock stardom. But he was never better than on this story of a prodigal son who “left your mountains to try life on the road” before realizing “Colorado, I wanna go home.”

Paper Bird

A Denver-based indie-folk outfit that first introduced the world to Esmé Patterson before its members made other flight plans, Paper Bird turned its home-state love into a jaunty sing-along bursting with sheer joy that begs for exclamation points: “Colorado! Colorado! Escape the city in the Rocky Mountain way! Come on down, we’ll take you to Colorado! Colorado! Colorado!”

“Commerce City Sister”

This tune isn’t exactly a tribute to the metro community name-checked in its title. “You know, I ain’t never going back to Commerce City,” wails a bereft Nick Urata. “Who knows how they’ve taken my last twenty-dollar bill.” But the evocative blend of disconsolate atmospherics and a hook that practically begs for stomping would do any suburb proud.

“You Get High”
Pretty Lights

Derek Vincent Smith, aka Pretty Lights, is the pride of Fort Collins, thanks to the beguiling wizardry of his dance-inspiring electronic soundscapes, of which “You Get High” is a particularly wondrous example. The track makes no explicit nods to the state, but anyone who doubts that it gets straight to the heart of Colorado’s elevated appeal belongs at sea level.

“40 Miles From Denver”
Yonder Mountain String Band

The title of this tune refers to a distance that the Yonder Mountain crew knows well: Nederland, where the group was formed, is just over forty miles from the Denver city limits. The music lands in the sweet spot between bluegrass verities and jam-band exploration, and the lyrics are all about finding a place whose cool mountain air symbolizes a better life.

“Colorado Christmas”
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s roots are deep in these parts, which explains why the band is enshrined in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. So, too, does “Colorado Christmas,” in which the players decide to ditch Los Angeles for a very different climate by way of this observation: “The closest thing to heaven on this planet anywhere/Is a quiet Christmas morning in the Colorado snow.”

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

The Colorado music community watched with pride as Rateliff was showered with the kind of national love to which he’d become accustomed on the local level as a result of this gleefully profane ode to the difficulties of remaining sober. “Now, for seventeen years, I’ve been throwing them back,” Rateliff proclaims — and most of them were served right here.

“Colorado Sunrise”

3OH!3, Boulder’s gift to electro-hip-hop-what-the-hell, is known for its irreverence, as witnessed by the advice in “Don’t Trust Me” to “do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips.” But despite the number’s quirks, the pledge to “hold you through the night and watch the Colorado sunrise” feels downright sincere.

“San Luis”
Gregory Alan Isakov

The meticulous attention to detail that singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov lavishes on “San Luis” is captured in the video for the ditty, which was shot in the San Luis Valley and includes a gorgeous appearance by the Great Sand Dunes. It’s a part of Colorado that deserves to be feted in song, and Isakov was just the man for the job.

“Make Those Miracles Happen”
Jon Keyworth

One of the best-selling Colorado singles ever, “Miracles” was cut in 1977, the year the Denver Broncos, long a professional football laughingstock, qualified for their first Super Bowl, which they lost to the Dallas Cowboys despite this sonic bid for positive thinking. Keyworth, a Broncos running back who played his college ball at the University of Colorado Boulder, is no one’s idea of a brilliant vocalist, and the number itself is a giant slab of Velveeta. But in a day and age badly in need of miracles, its sentiment definitely rings true.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts