The Twelve Most Essential Songs About Colorado: Part Two

Last time, we listened to half a dozen great, if sometimes strange, songs with Colorado connections. In particular, our state seems to inspire mishaps involving musicians – not to mention terrifying crimes such as the 2005 shooting of Marc Cohn during a carjacking attempt in Denver. It’s a long, long list, but here are six more – plus a Broncos-fan bonus!
6. “Colorado Girl,” Townes Van Zandt, 1969

The brilliant, eccentric, addicted and tormented singer-songwriter lived in Boulder from 1958 to 1962. He attended the University of Colorado Boulder until his family withdrew him due to the onset of the severe manic-depression that would mar his life. His beautiful songs are just beginning to be appreciated. “Colorado Girl” is the first of many bluesy, mellow, acoustic pro-high-country songs that wafted with the weed smoke out of Front Range back yards throughout the ‘70s.
5. “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” Gary Richrath, 1973

Anthem-rock monsters REO Speedwagon spent much of the ‘70s touring the middle of the U.S. in a station wagon jammed with equipment. Their recently departed guitarist and songwriter Gary Richrath penned this after the band got stuck in a blizzard after a gig at the legendary Boulder rock club Tulagi.
4. “Get Out of Denver,” Bob Seger, 1974

It would be wonderful if there was a real-life backstory about this rollicking ballad of a drug deal gone wrong, but there isn’t. Seger made it all up. It was inspired in part by a bad gig up in Aspen, but “I used Denver because it was a better rhyme,” said the singer-songwriter.

3. “O.D.’d in Denver,” Hank Williams, Jr., 1979

It kind of speaks for itself.

2. “Commerce City Sister,” DeVotchKa, 2003

Denver’s own DeVotchKa’s peculiar and compelling punk/cabaret quirky acid-tinged Euro-torment sound comes to a head on Una Volta, from which this cut is taken. Anyone who grew up in the region’s suburbs will recognize the ennui-crippled desperation encapsulated in the simple lyric, “You know I ain’t never goin’ back to Commerce City.”

1. “I-70 Westbound,” The Railbenders, 2006

Did you know that, before they found success on the country circuit, two-thirds of the Railbenders were in a swing band? Yep, James Dalton and Tyson Murray were part of the Shaken Martinis back in the day. Their third album, Showdown, also contains the upbeat “Drivin’ Back to Denver,” but this more easygoing track is perfect for cranking up with the top down on the way up to the mountains.

BONUS: “Make Those Miracles Happen,” Meeks/Wayand, 1977

When the Broncos finally went to the playoffs after nearly two decades of frustration, the faithful fans of Denver went into a kind of ecstasy the city would never witness again. Fullback Jon Keyworth recorded this inspirational ditty, and the 45-rpm record sold out fast in local stores and garnered incessant local on-air radio play. For a few hopeful weeks, it was the soundtrack of the orange-and-blue-mad city. We were crushed by the Cowboys in the Super Bowl that year, but the theme was later adopted by the American Cancer Society. Those of us who remember that magical season still sing it sometimes on game days.

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Brad Weismann became an award-winning writer and editor after spending years as a comedian. He's written about everything from grand opera to movies for a diverse array of magazines, newspapers and websites worldwide.