From a historical perspective, this song officially became Colorado's second state song in 2007, which is why I decided
to include this song in my curriculum for my 4th graders who are learning about Colorado history.
I was hesitant about teaching this song because of how it had been interpreted by people who took the lyrics literally (meaning that 'rocky mountain high" is a reference to a particular recreational drug); and I was among the many that thought that as well.
But I did my research and will always abide by the original intention of the songwriter. This is an excerpt of a statement John Denver gave on his intentions in his choice of lyrics and a history behind the controversy:
"The song briefly became controversial that year when the U.S. Federal Communications Commission was permitted by a legal ruling to censor music deemed to promote drug abuse. Numerous radio stations cautiously banned the song until Denver publicly explained that the "high" was his innocent description of the sense of peace he found in the Rockies. In 1985, Denver testified before Congress in the Parents Music Resource Center hearings about his experience:
'This was obviously done by people who had never seen or been to the Rocky Mountains, and also had never experienced the elation, celebration of life, or the joy in living that one feels when he observes something as wondrous as the Perseid meteor shower on a moonless, cloudless night, when there are so many stars that you have a shadow from the starlight, and you are out camping with your friends, your best friends, and introducing them to one of nature's most spectacular light shows for the first time.' "(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Mountain_High)
Having appeased my obligation for political correctness, I taught the song to my 4th graders over the course of a 50 minute class. I suggest to spend 15 minutes over the course of several classes so the kids can learn the words and take time to understand what they are singing.
My end result: they love it! Their comments on why they liked it were: "I like the guitar", "He has a nice voice" "His words help me make a picture and see what he sees".
I was also equally impressed with how well my 4th graders were able to figure out the metaphors Denver uses in his lyrics as well (for a grade level of almost 100% ELL students, I was VERY surprised).
The only change I made is to the Coda refrain, for the simple reason that some of my students know more than they should and they will definitely misconstrue the meaning.
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