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Never Even Been to West Virginia

April 15, 2008 - Wes Burns
I want to start off by saying I'm not a fan of John Denver. I couldn't tell you the name of a John Denver album or even more than one of his songs. I have a vague memory of him playing on The Muppets TV show and I remember a reference to him in the movie Dumb and Dumber. Not a fan.

This is what made it all the stranger during this past week as I could not get John Denver's “Country Roads” out of my head. A lot of people will bandy about the term “stuck in my head” with the same disregard for definition as those that claim to “hate” a car or “worship” a burger. I am not one of those people. When I say I had “Country Roads” stuck in my head I don't mean for a few bothersome minutes or even a taxing hour of internal repetition. I mean days upon days of nothing more than the dulcet sounds of John Denver echoing throughout my otherwise empty skull.

I was lost. I set about to exhaust all possible options before resigning to the fact that the “soundtrack to my life” was to be scored solely by the late Mr. John Denver. First: distraction. This produced less than desirable results after repeatedly listening to “Illmatic” and the finer works of the Wu Tang Clan results only in confused dream imagery about Method Man and Nas working as coal miners in West Virginia; unsettling at best. And ever present in the dream was the song.

Second on the list: Embrace. I set out to listen to the song as many times as possible. Quickly there after I realized that I owned no copy of this song. Once again pushing aside the perplexing question of just exactly how I got this particular song in my head I set out to find copies of “Country Roads”. I was able to locate two copies, both held by friends who had acquired the record on vinyl. I quickly learned that 1) people don't really like to cop to owning a John Denver album and 2) when they do admit to ownership a request to hear “Country Roads” is met with simultaneous laughter and excitement for the inevitable 70's era sing-a-long.

I freely admit that the sing-a-longs were both a good time. It is an art form too often lost in the modern world. America isn't a land of family singing or drinking songs or really any kind of dis-organized choral singing. While that experience was fun it was followed with an overwhelming defeat. I all too quickly realized that this act did nothing to exonerate the song from my head but now served only to remind me of the off key renditions delivered by friends too far into their Friday nights. And all the while the song remains.

Fearing that I am far too young in life to be suffering from a mental torture too similar to Poe to escape comparison I needed to take drastic measures. I made the choice to listen to the song. I know that by now I had clearly listened to the song a few times. I'm not talking about listening to it a few times; I'm talking about listening to only John Denver's “Country Roads”. I was going to appreciate this song with a reverence normally held only for Catcher in the Rye amongst some of our “greater crazies”. I was going to be Warhol and the soup can, I was going to master my obsession.

An impeccable plan save for one failing fact: I don't like John Denver's music. As I sit here now the song only comes back from time to time, no longer occupying my every empty thought. The cessation of my aural assault has only been a few days now but enough to give me the proper emotional distance to pose this question to my intrepid readers: does anyone, anywhere, have any idea where/how I got “Country Roads” stuck in my head? Happened about a week ago; taking all bets.



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