John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” turns 50: Love, censorship and constant tributes define song’s history

While John Denver tribute shows have been common in Colorado since his 1997 death at the age of 53, the show will also feature members of his band performing live and telling stories about the singer-songwriter. Tickets, $15-$98, are on sale now at

On June 8, Gov. Jared Polis also marked the song’s 50th anniversary by renaming the Mountain Lion Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park to Rocky Mountain High Trail.

“Here in Colorado, we’ve always known that our majestic mountains, our bright blue skies, our starlit nights and our forest and streams were the stuff of legends — but John Denver made them the stuff of song lyrics, too,” Polis said in a statement. “And not just any lyrics, but world-famous lyrics that span genres and generations.”

Released on Oct. 30, 1972, “Rocky Mountain High” became a chart-topping hit in 1973 and a staple of Denver’s live sets. He had moved to Colorado three years prior, according to Red Rocks and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame (the latter of which inducted Denver in 2011), and his time living in the fast-changing mountain town of Aspen — now synonymous with glitz and unaffordability — inspired him to see Colorado through itinerant eyes.

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