This is a cross-post from my Sauerkraut Cowboys blog. I love it!
A Slovak bluegrass friend, Roman Ac, posted this picture on Facebook — it’s wonderful, and I just have to post it here. It’s the lyrics of John Denver’s 1971 mega-hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads” spelled out in Czech (or Slovak) phonetic transliteration.
I’ve posted here in the past about how in Europe “Country Roads” is probably the most popular (and most covered) country-style song by local singers.
Denver, born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. in 1943, died in a plane crash in 1997. “Country Roads” lives on; it’s omnipresent, everywhere.
Here it is in Slovenian:
“My first country song which I heard was ‘Almost Heaven, West Virginia,'” a German truck driver told me in 2004. “… Henry John Deutschendorf… it was fantastic, yeah? And so I fell in love with country music. […] He gives us beautiful songs. John Denver. His grandfather was German, and he was one of the best. But he died too early.”
I’ve heard the song (which is NOT one of my favorites) sung in a variety of languages — and a variety of accented English. Here’s an English cover by a young Italian trio:
In then-Czechoslovakia, the definitive Czech version was recorded in 1975 by the late, great Pavel Bobek as “Veď mě dál, cesto má” — it became one of his signature songs. Bobek passed away just one year ago.
I find “Take Me Home Country Roads” almost unbearable sappy; sugary sweet and bland at the same time.
But audiences in Europe love the song — they invariably sing along, swaying and smiling. The idea of “home” translates into a sense that we (they) are all at home in America — or the America of dreams, where is here. Other songs popular in the European country scene also play on this sense of the universal “home” somewhere in the mythical West (or South) — “Sweet Home Alabama,” for example.