My favorite country road.

West Virginia has FOUR state songs. If that seems like a lot, Tennessee has something like a dozen. I’ve always sung “The West Virginia Hills,” when entering my home state. It’s been an official state song since 1963.

But the song most people think of as our state song is John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.” And in 2014, the state legislature made that official. So what is it about a song written by a guy born in Roswell, New Mexico, that captures the Mountain State so perfectly?

Well, first, let’s get the problems out of the way. “Almost heaven, West Virginia. Blue Ridge Mountains. Shenandoah River.” Well. Technically, those mountains and that river are just across the border in Virginia. But what the heck, people have been confusing us with western Virginia since 1863.

Next we have the “mountain mama” and “moonshine” lyrics. Pretty stereotypical but not wrong.

Now let’s hit the bits that make this song one that causes Mountaineers to throw their arms around one another’s shoulders and sing at the top of their lungs. “All my memories gathered ’round her, Miner’s lady stranger to blue water.” Yup, yup, yup. West Virginians love taking a walk down memory lane and pretty much everyone will eventually come to a family member who went down in the mines. Oh, and Myrtle Beach is the official vacation destination of the state for a reason.

But here’s where John Denver absolutely nailed it.

I hear her voice, in the mornin’ hour she calls me,
Radio reminds me of my home far away.
And driving down the road I get a feeling
I should have been home yesterday, yesterday.”

It’s kind of uncanny how West Virginians living outside the state will find one another. And once they do, they’re friends for life because being together is a little taste of home. I know lots of people are patriotic when it comes to their birthplace, but I really do think those of us from WV are a bit more passionate about it. And it’s because of what Denver captured so perfectly. We’re homesick. Most of us don’t feel quite right until we’re back on home ground. West Virginia really does call to us to let those country roads take us home . . . where we belong.