Colorado’s cowboy hat, otherwise known as Wyoming, put together a list of songs inspired by their windy state. The Casper Star-Tribune did the heavy lifting and that got us thinking. What are the essential songs about Colorado?
We can top Wyoming, right? And can it be done without invoking “Rocky Mountain High”?
With apologies in advance, these are the songs that sing about Colorado that you should know.
Get Out Of Denver | Bob Seger
Back in the day, Denver’s classic rock station, The Fox, played this song after every Broncos home win. Better than that, it’s just a great story of a bender that takes our intrepid hero over Loveland Pass and right into the face of the Colorado State Patrol. — Jim Hill
I-70 Westbound | The Railbenders
It could be specific to the Front Range, but whether it's for skiing, fishing, leaf-peeping, camping or hiking, a lot of folks associate heading west on I-70 into the mountains with fun and relaxation. When you've had too much city, there's no feeling in the world like trading elevators for elevation. — Daniel J. Schneider
Someday Soon | Judy Collins
Though she was born in Seattle, Judy Collins spent many formative years in Denver and got her musical start in Denver and Boulder folk clubs. "Someday Soon" may only mention Colorado indirectly, but its story is familiar to many who knew the state in those bygone days. Don't miss Buddy Emmons' stellar pedal steel and James Burton on Telecaster — and Stephen Stills on acoustic guitar. — Daniel J. Schneider
Rocky Mountain Way | Joe Walsh
People who don't live in Colorado think people who live in Colorado like this song and want to hear it all the time. Case in point: LIKE AT THE BILLY JOEL CONCERT AT COORS FIELD LAST WEEK (Aug. 8, 2019). — Francie Swidler
Editor’s Note: Francie, who assures me she has seen The Eagles several times, said this was a Don Henley song. BZZZZT. Nope, it’s Joe Walsh from his solo ‘The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get’ album.
San Luis | Gregory Alan Isakov
Born of a camping trip in the San Luis Valley, local folk singer Gregory Alan Isakov’s ballad from “Evening Machines” delivers on the feeling on you get standing at the foot of the Great Sand Dunes. The video is made from footage from that camping trip. — Stephanie Wolf
Colorado | Paper Bird
The now-defunct Paper Bird made a bunch of catchy songs that smell like all four corners of Colorado blended up in this grassy tune. And natives will no doubt very much identify with this line: "No offense, but we won't miss you when you're gone!" — Andrew Villegas
Closer | Chainsmokers
Walk into any University of Colorado Boulder party circa 2016 and I can assure you this song by the Chainsmokers featuring Halsey would be playing. And all because of one damn line that gets all the frat boys screaming, “from your roommate back in Boulder.” Thanks, Chainsmokers… I guess. — Xandra McMahon
Jenny And The Ess-Dog | Stephen Malkmus
This is an actual great song for college kids that namedrops Boulder — sorry, not sorry, Chainsmokers. In 2001, a post-Pavement Stephen Malkmus released this indie anthem about a slacker musician who lives in Denver and his girlfriend Jenny is moving up to Boulder to go to college! I don't know if the frat boys were jamming this on the Hill from their giant houses, but the college radio DJs in the dingy basement of the UMC were. — Alisha Sweeney
Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead | Warren Zevon
This is off 1991’s “Mr. Bad Example” and it's macabre AND catchy! C'MON PEOPLE. — Alison Borden
Editor’s Note: You must also watch the movie of the same name at least once. The crime plot has no connection to Denver whatsoever, but you’ll have fun spotting what locations are old Denver and what locations are California.
Hand Cuffs | The Rouge
No poetic ode to Mountain vistas or majestic plains here, this whiskey-soaked slice o' life song represents the Coloradoans who pull up a bar stool instead of heading out to nature on their weekends. The track gets major cool-kid points for a shout out to Denver's hipster epicenter bar, Sputnik and former bartender Matty who now co-owns the venue next door. — Jessi Whitten
Natural Blue | Julie Byrne
Julie Byrne wrote this after a brief visit to Colorado in the midst of a grueling tour schedule with no days off. Like a precious stone, the song’s exquisite beauty belies the intense stress that created it. I hear Byrne’s graceful voice every time I drive out of Denver on Route 285 and gaze upward. — Daniel Mescher
I Know You Rider | Grateful Dead
I attribute this lover’s lament to the Dead, but it’s really a Dead cover of an old blues number that changed and grew and went in a variety of directions until the Dead recorded it in the 60s and made it a staple of their live shows, usually transitioning from the trippy “China Cat Sunflower”, so much so that Dead fans know it as China Rider. It’s a tradition the current iteration of the band, Dead & Co., have carried on. Indeed they played it the final night of their summer tour at CU Boulder’s Folsom Field this year as the soldout stadium, including me, sang along to these lines: “I wish I was a headlight on a north-bound train | I'd shine my light through the cool Colorado rain.” — Hart Van Denburg
Colorado | Chuck Pyle
I don’t know how they did it, but our friends Theresa and Jack somehow scored Chuck Pyle to play — solo — at their wedding reception on the Grand Lake Lodge deck almost a quarter century ago. He played so many of his songs so wonderfully, Endless Sky was especially memorable, but when he played “Colorado” with Grand Lake stretching out behind him under an impossibly blue sky, it was a perfect moment. — Hart Van Denburg
Editor's Note: We'll let the non-state sanctioned Buena Vista pronunciation slide.
Denver | Willie Nelson
Short and sweet. — Jeremy Petersen
Denver | TJ Miller
Can you really have a collection of songs about Colorado without the cliché-filled “Denver” from local comedian TJ Miller? That was rhetorical, of course you can’t. Although the video does the song more justice than listening to the track itself, the lyrics are jam-packed with secret Denver references and inane Colorado relative nonsequiturs. — Zach Gilltrap
Colorado | Cody Jinks
From Twitter user @himaelee:
Colorado Girl | Townes van Zandt
Aaron Hall let us know about "Colorado Girl":
Snowin' On Raton | Townes van Zandt
How about some more van Zandt? Have you driven down south in the winter and been stuck on the pass? @snwynkoop on reminded us of "Snowin' on Raton."
Wolf Creek Pass | C.W. McCall
Or this song about another Colorado mountain pass as suggested by Lookout reader Evan L.
Ridin' The Storm Out | REO Speedwagon
Ever been stuck in Boulder at the long-gone Tulagi? REO has. This came in from David K on Facebook.
Where Zero Meets 15 | Five Iron Frenzy
@Plansit says this checks all the boxes: Colfax, Broadway, 0, 15, ska.
Colorado | Flying Burrito Brothers
Whoops, we forgot this one. @beebewest set us straight.
Boulder To Birmingham | Emmylou Harris
Harris associates Boulder with Gram Parsons. She wrote this after his death. Suggested by both Lookout reader Chuck M. and Alison Borden.
Colorado | Danny Holien
Lookout reader Chuck M gave us this very good pick.
The Blizzard | Judy Collins
Judy Collins makes another appearance on the list thanks to @mizzamyabrams
Telluride | Tim McGraw
From Kim N.: "When I was 19 I threw my stuff in the car, I headed up to the Rockies, got a job at this bar..."
Going Back To Colorado | Zephyr
Remember Boulder's Zephyr? @druglessdouglas does.
Colorado | Stephen Stills
Lookout reader Deb K. suggested this one and the Lookout's Daniel J. Schneider enthusiastically agreed. "Colorado" is the story of a man so in love with these mountains that he'd rather be in them alone than look elsewhere for love.
Lucky Denver Mint | Jimmy Eat World
Another suggestion from @TR_Murf. It's thin, but we're all still looking for where they keep these mints in the Mile High City.
40 Miles From Denver | Yonder Mountain String Band
From CaseyNP on Twitter...
Commerce City Sister | DeVotchKa
@joshboissevain rightly steered us toward this great tune from Denver's very own DeVotchKa.
Boulder Skies | Pure Praire League
We got several tweets and emails about this one.
A Mile High In Denver | Jimmy Buffett
You're right, @RobScanlan. It's 5 o'clock here.