Music News

The John Denver musical A Moment in Time is crap -- but it's our crap

On the home stretch of the drive from Denver to Pittsburgh, you cut at one point through the West Virginia panhandle, a roughly ten-mile stretch of winding Appalachian interstate. It's one of the prettiest sections of the whole trip, and it also provides the setting for one-half of my exactly two experiences with West Virginians. About two miles into the state, I was gunning it up a steep hill when a large tire rolled past in the opposite direction, shortly after which a group of some four yokels came into view around the bend chasing after it full-tilt. About twenty seconds after that, I came upon their tire-less car. A short time later, after I had settled in to Pittsburgh (it wasn't long before I split up with my ex-wife and moved back to Denver), I got work remodeling a house with a West Virginian dude who was so universally racist that he referred to Italians as "dagos" with no irony whatsoever.

There is a moral to these stories: Seriously, fuck West Virginia.

With that in mind, let's consider A Moment in Time, the inanely named upcoming musical based on the works of John Denver. With the help of adapted versions of such hits as "Annie's Song" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads," it tells the story of a mortally wounded soldier in Afghanistan who reflects back on happier times in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia. And for a variety of reasons, that is fucking bullshit.

First off, I'm going to allow that John Denver was kind of a mountain whore. He named himself after the capital of Colorado and paid tribute to us in "Rocky Mountain High," sure, but he wasn't exactly discriminating about which mountains he loved; in fact, A Moment in Time does indeed draw its plot in part from the lyrics of "Take Me Home, Country Roads," the ballad in which the singer somehow rhymes "West Virginia" with "mountain mama."

Second, I don't even like John Denver. His music couldn't be more bland; at least shit like Michael Bolton is offensively boring. There's nothing to care about one way or another with a John Denver song.

But here are the facts: 1) A Moment in Time also uses "Rocky Mountain High," meaning it could just as easily have been set in Colorado; 2) West Virginia never did shit for John Denver; and 3) Colorado did. As ill-advised as it may have been, we had John Denver's back from the beginning: The radio-play campaign for "Take Me Home, Country Roads," John Denver's first big hit, began — you guessed it — in Denver, in 1971. In 1974, we named him poet laureate of the state. We named "Rocky Mountain High" our second state song, for Christ's sake. All West Virginia did was somehow lose control of a stationary tire like a bunch of goddamned rubes, and they get the musical? It's outrageous! Outrageous!

Whatever. John Denver sucks, and A Moment in Time is going to be a piece of shit anyway, but it's still not right. It may be crap, but damn it all, it's our crap.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte