15 Of The Best Songs About Colorado: Centennial State Playlist

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Written by Laura Macmillan
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Colorado is a state that boasts the Rocky Mountains, a higher-than-average altitude compared to other places in the United States, and a unique culture. 

It’s no wonder composers wrote dozens of songs about this unique state. Between modern bands waxing poetic about this liberal paradise to classic crooners describing their time in the Centennial State, there are a handful of popular songs about Colorado. 

This list is just 15 of them, but it’s some of the most influential and intriguing musical numbers that mention colorful Colorado. Read on to check them out! 

1. “Colorado Girl” By Townes Van Zandt 

First on our list is a classic song from the late 1960s. “Colorado Girl” describes a search for lost love in the fair state of Colorado. Van Zandt’s dream girl resides in Denver, and this is their return to her neck of the woods. 

Townes Van Zandt built a storied career singing hits and accompanying himself with virtuosic guitar playing. Though he was born in Texas, he popularized ample other regions in the US, including Colorado.

The late singer’s music had become less popular by the time of his death in 1997, but there was a posthumous resurgence of his hit songs in the early 2000s. If you’ve heard “Colorado Girl” lately, that may be why! 

Related: Check out our list of best songs about Denver here.

2. “Forty Miles From Denver” By Yonder Mountain Spring Band

If you look up the lyrics and story behind “Forty Miles From Denver” anywhere on the internet, a handful of comments by Colorado residents attest to this being “their song.” 

Speaking of the lyrics to this classic tune, it tells a story of yearning and travel. The band is from a relatively small town about forty miles from the city of Denver, so that plays into its title as well. 

The song is upbeat but still melancholy. This is a theme amongst traveling anthems of this era! Check this unique tune out on the Yonder Mountain Spring Band’s 1999 release Elevation

3. “You Wild Colorado” By Johnny Cash 

Country-music singer-songwriter Johnny Cash has done it all, from humble beginnings in Arkansas to military service to becoming one of US history’s most popular musical artists.

Nicknamed the Man in Black due to his black wardrobe and signature black guitar, it’s only natural that the outlaw country legend would pen a tune or two about Colorado. 

“You Wild Colorado” compares a romantic interest of the singer to the rugged terrain and complex beauty of the Colorado countryside.

Cash eludes through his lyrics the tough choice to stay with someone lovely yet rough and tumble. Much like a hike in the Rocky Mountains, it’s hard to know when to turn back and when to persevere! 

4. “Rocky Mountain High” By John Denver

John Denver is not just on this list for his name. He wrote a handful of musical odes to Colorado, and “Rocky Mountain High” may be the most famous and well-known.

He penned the song three years after moving to Aspen, Colorado, and describes his immediate love for the place. 

The song came under scrutiny for its association with drug culture, but the “high” described in this song is strictly a description of altitude. Our singer even had to testify this in congress amidst fears of being banned on public radio! 

Since then, “Rocky Mountain High” has become one of Colorado’s state songs. Rock stars aren’t always known for being wholesome, but this is one song that can be taken at lovely face value. 

5. “Boulder To Birmingham” By Emmylou Harris

Singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist Emmylou Harris released “Boulder To Birmingham” on her 1975 release Pieces Of The Sky. It is a poignant country piece with a backstory that could bring on the tears.

Harris had penned the song as a tribute to a mentor of hers who passed away, and its stirring sound has cemented it as one of her more popular songs. 

Numerous other artists have covered the song since its debut. Harris continues to perform the song to this day, and it still holds significant meaning for the singer. 

6. “I Guess He’d Rather Be In Colorado” By John Denver

Here we return to another song by John Denver. His time living in Colorado had an immense influence on his life and music, as evidenced by “I Guess He’d Rather Be In Colorado.” This song features a soft melody and melancholy vibe. 

As the name implies, it sings of a man living in New York City who’d rather be in the Centennial State, so much so that our singer often hears him hum a song about Boulder Canyon.

While penned in the third person, “I Guess He’d Rather Be In Colorado” offers some perspective on Denver’s own love of the state. He kept this famous song in his repertoire throughout most of his career. 

7. “Colorado” By Florida Georgia Line

Country duo Florida Georgia Line has been popular entertainers since the formation of their group in 2010. Their song on this list, “Colorado,” is obviously written about the state.

While the aforementioned “Rocky Mountain High” is not a reference to any kind of intoxication, Florida Georgia Line pokes fun at this controversy with the lyrics “I’ve been drunk up in the Smokies on a Rocky Mountain high.” 

Throughout the song, this is a theme that describes a breakup and the trials and tribulations that follow such an event.

8. “I-70 Westbound” By The Railbenders 

Interstate 70 is one of the longest highways in the US, traversing the country all the way from Utah to Maryland. As you may have guessed, this takes the route through Colorado! It’s a popular way to reach the mountains if traveling west from the eastern seaboard. 

The Railbenders was poetic about Denver and the country surrounding it in Colorado. This is their journey to “get away for a little while” after taking the interstate into the Rocky Mountains.

Sure, Colorado’s not in the name of this tune, but it’s inseparable from the countryside it describes. 

9. “Lucky Old Colorado” By Merle Haggard 

One of the most well-known country musicians of all time is Merle Haggard, and he lived a longer life than some of his contemporaries.

“Lucky Old Colorado” was written and released later in his career than some other hit songs. 

The California-born singer describes feeling disenchanted by the girl of his dreams living far away, in Colorado of all places.

Sharing a popular theme with other songs on this list, he contrasts the wistful loss of love with the beautiful and extreme scenery of Colorado and the Rockies. 

10. “Lucky Denver Mint” By Jimmy Eat World 

This song is another modern addition to our list, written and performed by American rock band Jimmy Eat World in the late 1990s.

Despite “Denver” being in the title, Jimmy penned this song after the band drank and reveled in Las Vegas. 

“Lucky Denver Mint” became extremely popular around California and the United States’ West Coast, despite ironically ranking unpopular in Colorado. Overall, the song wasn’t the hit it was intended to be, but it has a cult following of fans praising it and the band. 

11. “O.D.’d In Denver” By Hank Williams Jr. 

When discussing what authenticity means in country music, Hank Williams and his son Hank Williams Jr. frequently arise as a gold standard in music.

Country music often describes love and loss, which are subjects frequently accompanied by issues with substance abuse. 

“O.D.’d In Denver” describes the singer meeting a love interest, whose name he ultimately can’t remember because of an overdose.

The singer mentions cocaine as the drug of choice, and this experience in the Mile High City scares the song’s writer off the drug for good.

12. “Rocky Mountain Way” By Joe Walsh 

This song by Joe Walsh is a tribute to John Denver’s Colorado-inspired music in one way. He moved from the midwest to Boulder, Colorado, shortly before penning “Rocky Mountain Way,” and the song is a bit of a love story about the region. 

Our singer first recorded this song with a new group he’d formed in Colorado, and it was a departure from his earlier career. Unlike many rock and pop songs, the melody and harmony of this particular piece were written before the lyrics. 

The song references baseball, a longtime favorite sport of Walsh’s, and now plays at Colorado Rockies games. 

13. “Where The Columbines Grow” (Arthur John Flynn)

Before “Rocky Mountain High, ” “Where The Columbines Grow” is the first Colorado state song. Arthur John Fynn penned the song and lyrics in the early 1900s, and it became the song of the Centennial State in 1915.

It describes the violet-hued blooms dotting the terrain and the natural beauty of Colorado’s “pioneer land”—a fitting homage to the state’s landscape.

There was a controversial move to remove it altogether in favor of John Denver’s song, but they reached a compromise, making them both state songs, with “Rocky Mountain High,” becoming official in 2007.

14. “A Mile High In Denver” By Jimmy Buffett 

Almost nobody is as famous and beloved in the musical world as Jimmy Buffett. Our singer has created a lifestyle to go with his musical style, appealing to those searching for chill vibes and a good time.

Buffett penned “A Mile High In Denver” as a love song to the state of Colorado after finally visiting the storied place. It describes our singer traversing through Denver, finding peace as he journeys.

Like many Colorado-inspired songs, natural beauty and mountainous terrain abound from the song’s catchy lyrics! 

15. “Get Out Of Denver” By Bob Seger 

Detroit singer Bob Seger went the rock-and-roll route rather than embracing the Motown sounds that surrounded him in his early career and managed to pen a handful of hits in the process. “Get Out Of Denver” is a 1974 example of one of these hits.

The upbeat song is about getting run out of town trying to escape a policeman. According to Seger, it’s a fictional account, but the story the song portrays is exciting nonetheless.

He was indeed a fan of the mile-high state but never became controversial enough to get chased out of Denver as his rock hit suggests. 

Summing Up Our List Of Songs Written About Colorado

These are tunes you should definitely check out, whether you’re Colorado-born and raised or are just curious about the state.

They are a diverse selection of songs, but the number of them that describe natural beauty is a testament to the vistas and vibe of Colorado as a whole. 

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.