About the song

John Denver’s Wild Montana Skies. A ballad that evokes the vastness and untamed beauty of the American West, sung by a voice synonymous with folk music itself. Released in 1983 on Denver’s album It’s About Time, the song transcends a simple travelogue, weaving a narrative about the land’s profound impact on a man’s spirit.

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Denver, a champion of environmental causes and a self-proclaimed “Colorado Rocky Mountain high” kind of guy, was no stranger to singing about the majesty of nature. But Wild Montana Skies feels particularly personal. Perhaps it’s the duet with the incomparable Emmylou Harris, lending a touch of wistful yearning to the melody. Perhaps it’s the imagery – the “wild geese over the water, heading north and home again” paints a picture of a place both untamed and welcoming.

The song opens with a captivating origin story. We learn of a young man “born in the Bitterroot Valley in the early morning rain,” a place name that itself conjures a sense of rugged isolation. The lyrics suggest a connection to the land formed from the very beginning, a theme that resonates throughout.

We don’t get a traditional biography, though. Hints are dropped – “some say he was a lawyer, some say wasn’t John” – leaving the listener to imagine the man’s past. What’s clear is that the city life, if he ever experienced it, wasn’t for him. There’s a restlessness, a yearning for something more, that the “wild wind” whispers of.

Wild Montana Skies isn’t just about escape, though. It’s about finding oneself. The lyrics tell us the young man “learned to read the seasons, the love of a good family, and a woman of his own.” The Montana landscape becomes a teacher, shaping his character and values. The vastness, perhaps, allows him the space for introspection. The harshness, the resilience it demands. The song doesn’t shy away from the challenges – “a storm across the mountains” is a stark reminder of nature’s power. But these challenges become part of the man’s story, woven into the fabric of his being.

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The duet with Harris adds another layer of depth. Her voice, both strong and tender, embodies the feminine spirit of the land. It’s a land that both nourishes and demands respect, a sentiment echoed in the repeated plea: “Oh Montana, give this child a home.” This isn’t just about a man seeking refuge; it’s about a reciprocal relationship, a dance between man and nature.

Wild Montana Skies is more than just a pretty song about a beautiful state. It’s a testament to the enduring power of place, a reminder that the landscapes we inhabit shape who we become. It’s a song that will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt a connection to the wild, a yearning for wide-open spaces and the freedom they represent.

Video

Lyrics

He was born in the Bitteroot Valley in the early morning rain.
Wild geese over the water, heading north and home again.
Bringing a warm wind from the south, bringing the first taste of the spring.
His mother took him to her breast, and softly she did sing:

Oh Montana, give this child a home.
Give him the love of a good family and a woman of his own.
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes,
give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana Skies.

His mother died that summer and he never learned to cry.
He never knew his father and he never did ask why.
He never knew the answers that would make an easy way,
but he learned to know the wilderness and to be a man that way.

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His mother’s brother took him in to his family and his home,
gave him a hand that he could lean on and a strength to call his own.
And he learned to be a farmer, and he learned to love the land,
and he learned to read the seasons and he learned to make a stand.

Oh Montana, give this child a home.
Give him the love of a good family and a woman of his own.
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes,
give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana Skies.

On the eve of his 2lst birthday, he set out on his own.
He was 30 years and running when he found his way back home.
Riding a storm across the mountains and an aching in his heart,
said he came to turn the pages and to make a brand new start.

Now he never told a story of the time that he was gone.
Some say he was a lawyer, some say he was a John.
There was something in the city that he said he couldn’t breathe,
there was something in the country that he said he couldn’t leave.

Now some say he was crazy, some are glad he’s gone.
Some of us will miss him and try to carry on,
giving a voice to the forest, giving a voice to the dawn.
Giving a voice to the wilderness and the land that he lived on.
Oh Montana, give this child a home.

Give him the love of a good family and a woman of his own.
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes,
give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana Skies.

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Oh Montana, give this child a home.
Give him the love of a good family and a woman of his own.
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes,
give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana Skies.