10 Songs About Colorado

Colorado embodies a certain aura that inspires musicians - both locally and nationally - to pen songs about the Centennial State. From the eastern plains to the majestic Rocky Mountains, there are a plethora of songs that encapsulate why Colorado is the currently the sixth fastest growing state in terms of population.

While the state lends itself well to Americana and country songs, it has also served as the basis for song rooted in hip-hop, hard rock, indie rock and other diverse genres. Here's a look at ten that pay homage to Colorful Colorado.

America the Beautiful - Originally written by Katharine Lee Bates and composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward. Performed by everyone, including Ray Charles.

Wellesley College English professor, Katherine Lee Bates, was inspired by a trip up Pikes Peak to write the words to this famous patriotic song. Originally published as a poem, it soon spawned several musical versions, most notably the hymn by Samuel A. Ward. Colorado will be forever linked to "purple mountain majesties."

Rocky Mountain High - John Denver

Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. AKA John Denver, probably did more to stoke the tourism industry in Colorado than any other human. Although born in New Mexico, he wrote several songs about his adopted state and maintained a home in Aspen until his death. In 2007, "Rocky Mountain High" was made one of Colorado's two official state songs and he was the first inductee into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

Colorado Girl - Towns Van Zandt

Though Colorado these days has one of the highest male to female ratios in the nation (Denver is sometimes exaggeratingly referred to as Menver), Towns Van Zandt clearly connected the state to a special type of gal whose smile "shames the mountains tall." Van Zandt moved with his family to Boulder, Colo. in 1958 and despite his worldly travels always remembered the state fondly.

Colorado - Paper Bird

A Colorado favorite before going on to wider acclaim, Paper Bird captivated hometown Denver audiences with their earnest Americana harmonies and unique tri-female vocalist lineup. In "Colorado" they capture the idiosyncrasies of the state that make it so diverse: "huge snowstorms and blazing heat," "wild forests and a golden sun" and "miner's gold and mountain men." After all, "it's your mother's favorite state."

Colorado Bluebird Sky - The String Cheese Incident

The String Cheese incident formed in Crested Butte, Colo. and bounced around the many other ski towns of the state before becoming a mainstay in the jamband scene. Many members of the bluegrass outift maintain residency in Colorado and can be seen playing with various side projects throughout the state. Colorado claims 300 days of sun each year and its bluebird skies are a welcome site to any traveler returning home or skier taking to the slopes on a powder day.

40 Miles from Denver - Yonder Mountain String Band

Another Colorado bluegrass band with a large following among jamband devotees, YMSB formed in the mountain oasis of Nederland, Colo. and often performed as part of the town's NedFest. "40 Miles from Denver" is actually a song about leaving the state due to a soured relationship. So, a sad song, but they all can't be "Rocky Mountain High."

Denver - Willie Nelson

Colorado's capital city makes an early appearance in the massive canon of Willie Nelson songs appearing on 1975's star-making album, Red Headed Stranger. A quick ditty, "Denver" clocks in at just 53 second but captures the mid-Century big city feel of the Queen City of the Plains. The country stalwart made several early appearances at Colorado clubs and has become even more enamored with the state of late. He plans to introduce his own brand of marijuana - "Willie Weed" - to Colorado and Washington markets.

Colorado Sunrise - 3OH!3

For a brief period in the late aughts, Boulder natives Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte, were at the forefront of the Colorado music scene thanks to the broad popularity of their second album Want and a go-around on the 2008 Warped Tour. The 3-0-3 hand symbol - a shout-out to their hometown area code - was ubiquitous (and also got them sued by wrestler Diamond Dallas Page). The flawed protagonist in this aberrant love song hopes to hold his companion, "through the night and watch that Colorado sunshine."

Mean Street - Colfax Speed Queen

While not specifically pinpointing one particular street, it wouldn't be a stretch to surmise this song was shaped by "the longest, wickedest street in America." With 53.3 miles of varying degrees of sketchiness, it's impossible to paint a picture of Denver without a healthy splattering of Colfax Avenue. It lives and breaths and any city traverse includes at least one interaction with the Lost Highway. Colfax Speed Queen's moniker and lyrical content pays tribute to the colorful characters that inhabit this gritty urban artery.

Colorado - Grizzly Bear

The last track on their critically acclaimed album Yellow House, "Colorado" is a six-minute plus meandering, shoe-gazing paean to the breadth of the Centennial State. You could drive for ten hours and still be in Colorado and this song conjures up images of vast expanses of nothingness and the feelings of insignificance they can evoke.

Matt Sandy has been living in and writing about Denver since 2007. He writes about beer for various publications.