SONGS ABOUT ASPEN AND COLORADO

 

Trevor Wilson

Trevor Wilson

Songwriter Trevor Wilson lives in Brooklyn. And his day job is as an arborist there.  But he got to spend a month this winter in Aspen as restaurant Justice Snows‘ ‘Songwriter-In-Residence’.  He was commissioned by Justice Snows to come to Aspen and be inspired to compose songs about Aspen and Colorado.  Justice Snows, through the efforts of its booking manager, Jackson Emmer, strives to deliver artistic, down-home performances by local and touring musicians.

Wilson got to read, research and hang out in Aspen for a month to get a flavor for it, and then put those insights into new compositions.

Eight songs came out of this experiential experiment, about Kit Carson, John C Fremont, Cottonwood trees,  the Red Butte/Ute Trail, Prince Bandar, Hunter S Thompson and Ouray & Chipeta, along with his rendition of the official song of the State of Colorado, “Where The Columbines Roam”.

Trevor stopped by Aspen Public Radio to play a bit of his new compositions and discuss songwriting and life in Aspen with Aspenbeat.

The interview with Trevor is followed by two tunes about Aspen from longtime local Paul Andersen.  “The Downvalley Shuffle” was written by Andersen over 20 years ago following a traffic death on Shale Bluffs due to black ice.  Backup vocals by Lee Martin and Suzy McArthur.  “Ghost Bikers In The Sky” is from the same era – late ’80s – inspired by the mountain bike craze.  Paul sang this song several times at the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Crested Butte under the pseudonym “Shifty Freewheel”, dressed in lycra shorts with fringe, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.

Other songs about Colorado round out the show, including tunes from Joe Walsh, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Townes Van Zandt, John Denver, Dan Fogelberg, Poco (just inducted in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame) and Judy Collins.

Trevor’s bibliography and research notes are included below.

Broadcast on Aspen Public Radio, Sat March 7, 2015
Host and curator: Andrea Young

Listen to the interview with Trevor and his songs along with more songs about Colorado here on Soundcloud:

 

 PLAYLIST

Interview with Trevor Wilson
Paul Andersen – Downvalley Shuffle
Paul Andersen – Ghost Bikers In The Sky
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Midnight at Woody Creek
Townes Van Zandt – Colorado Girl
John Denver – Aspenglow
Joe Walsh – Rocky Mountain Way
Dan Fogelberg – High Country Snows
Poco – Kind Woman
Judy Collins – The Blizzard

TREVOR WILSON’S SONGS & LYRICS

WHERE THE COLUMBINES ROAM

The official state song of Colorado — this one written by A. J. Flynn in 1915, basically on a whim. Source – Land of the Blue Sky People.

Where the snowy peaks gleam in the moonlight,
above the dark forests of pine,
and the wild foaming waters dash onward
toward lands where the tropic stars shine
where the scream of the bold mountain eagle
responds to the notes of the dove
in the purple-robed West, the land that is best,
the pioneer land that we love

‘Tis the land where the columbines grow,
overlooking the plains far below,
while the cool summer breeze in the evergreen trees
softly sings where the columbines grow
the bison is gone from the upland
the deer from the canon has fled,
the home of the wolf is deserted
the antelope mourns for his dead
the war-whoop re-echoes no longer,
the Indian’s only a name,
and the nymphs of the grove in their loneliness rove
but the columbine blooms jus the same

Let the violets brighten the brookside
in the sunlight of earlier spring
let the clover bedeck the green meadow,
in  days when the orioles sing
let the goldenrod herald the autumn
but, under the midsummer sky,
in its fair western home, may the columbine bloom
till our great mountain rivers run dry

 

KIT CARSON

One of Colorado’s earliest settlers. Lived as a friend among the Utes, operated successful business ventures and was a relatively fair guy. He stands to me as an example of someone who integrated himself into the existing culture and landscape, rather than ignoring it.

Traveling southward down the edge of the ridge
we call these places after our own
if you could stand here now, you’d be a
father to these ideas I’ve played and laid out on my head
still, I softly place my wants around the town
We come, we wait; I have heard the day
the valley is a singer’s game
And I try to sing the same
The song tells  how
how will we be faithful to the river
the men ask when
the men want more
glorious time, find your mind
travel inside
I hope we will in time


JOHN C FREMONT

‘The pathfinder’, only by virtue of being the guy who was bullish enough to keep organizing suicidal expeditions. An early explorer in Colorado and many other states, had a long and storied history. The details for this song are ripped from an account in Land of the Blue Sky People.

John C Fremont talked a lot, court marshalled, went out to walk
Kit Carson knew not to come, so did Uncle Dick Wooten
He talked big plans, drew a line through the pass
And he knew how to ask

six score mules, even more corn, thirty three men were all to come
Parson Bill, resident pill, showed them how to follow the sun
Ft. Bent told John not to cross, it was three feet deep at the foot of the boss,
But John didn’t take no orders
from men or higher powers

They went up the Heurfano and followed it to the Robidoux
Down the sands, into snow, mid-December, not soon to thaw, then
Parson Bill steered them wrong, when the winds blew their party along
the mules could not tread further
and they left them there in hunger
and the stranded men, finishing the corn on the ridge
dreamed of getting rich

Fremont sent some unlucky men to ask for help from the Mexicans
When they never got back to camp, Fremont sent a few again
Lucky him, the Utes were his friends, scratching their heads at his lack of sense
(not full chorus) They gave him ponies, drew him the bend,
told him to take his men to Rio Grande

Down to Taos, Fremont and a few, asked Kit Carson what to do
Knowing what he needed to know, Kit led their way through the snow
Saved these men, Parson Bill, Silly John, what a clown
Here’s a frontier soldier
who thought he could conquer winter
As proud as all the others
who thought they owned the sky
who knows the reason why

FOR COTTONWOOD

This is my tribute to the underdog, Cottonwood, with its scraggly little branches and rude bark. Often referred to as a ‘weed tree’, it’s Colorado’s equivalent of Brooklyn’s ailanthus tree. Everyone loves the Aspen tree… I say, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

every year the cottonwood grows
not in solitude, and not in rows
unplanned, unsung
pallette wood bows its mouth inside of my eye
black-billed magpies nod as they wing their by, they build their home
cupping river, we suck up the air from the sky
this one grows like a war field and burns like a stone
its just my type

thank god the tombstones haven’t seen my hand
the branches trump the monuments, and IT IS GRAND
into its woven web I might get lost
and slowly forget cost

although its brother stands a little more sharp
and glitters in the moonlight- I haven’t named him, but you know his song
you know his whole life
you know his call in the deep forest night
as youll tell us in fall
as cottonwood dirties it all
for the rock footed, maybe, but not for the bear

I have already packed my bags inside
this dead one has a trunk where I can hide
where will it hurt the most if I have to climb

 

WALTER & ELIZABETH

The Paepckes were an original power couple, and really built the Aspen that so many enjoy today. What’s so uplifting about their story, to me, is that they came at it through a humanist, intellectual perspective, not a financial one. When the big money did come, the intersection of these competing interests challenged their original intentions. It’s very hard to come to a place, make some changes, and avoid controversy; I think they should be proud of their legacy, but it also doesn’t surprise me that in the late 80s, looking at how the super-rich had changed the direction of the town, Elizabeth was asking, ‘What price glory?’

 

So name the arch, place those brains on top of your hearts
these sharp darts, made noise when they broke the dawn of the dark
you saw beyond barriers, you stretched your hands across the park
into into

 

surely though the many minds who spent a lifetime sharing wine
are slow to see the value of such radiance
the women found a chance to mend the sagging houses, but not the men
who felt they missed their chance at radiance

then, too many bodies compressed their weight across your chest
who wants to take this site? no tumbleweeds
the coin, the courts, the sheriff, and the coasts

what price glory?

you’re surrounded entirely
by the time the town moved you around
can we still think so big and free?

hear me today, I play
turn out some shade
so this song isn’t safe – it is wrapped in a towel
as it calms, or it bades – as the dark does the same
as a toss, seize the day – as the sign, as the lake
as the dawn beats the day – as the DOW as the saw
as the roar beats the bay – as the sword writes it done
as the run chases sun – as a nod, as its grace
as a growth plants its name – as the sun hasn’t done

 

HUNTER S. THOMPSON

Sometimes HST seems like another proselytizing so-called revolutionary. Sometimes he is an inspiring poet. I don’t love his work, I don’t love the way he carried on his life, but he was very entertaining.

This is the country, this is the state
it’s the same idea, blow your mind, stay up late
I guess I’m one of the better dressed
coming in for a chance for some
of the golden duke with bats circling his face
I came in loving my legs, it’ a nighttime day
Searching down in me, you didn’t want to say
how much it would cost me to play

I wait in the back of the bar- I take my shoes off
I wore a piece of the trail soaked from the sole to the top
these bottles of fire
it dead-ends just
before the edge of those who hold toad luck
come back inside, you shaka call
but it sounds like you flipped me off as you roll
you’re just another rolling stone
waiting for a dirty song

 

RED BUTTE / UTE TRAIL

Of my many hikes in Aspen, Red Butte has been my favorite. The jagged, red rocks that seem to defy gravity, they all speak some ancient geographical history to me. As acute this beauty is, every time I sit on the summit I think about the people I love.

By the time i reach the summit
i can see you’ve been here long before
so i reach into the air and try to grab you
you fall between the ridges I absorb
your scent crept inside in the dead of night
it lit its atom match and flew away

 

PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN

I was struck by a lot of details in my time in the valley that seemed to indicate a real housing issue. Prince Bandar’s unreasonably large mansion is a convenient reminder of the strain of ‘invidious comparison’ (Conover) that drives the super-rich to build massive homes that remain empty most of the year. Conversely, I was taken aback by the plight of those displaced in the Pan and Fork Trailer Park, who were getting by with such a small living space already, and were forced to find a different little slice of something somewhere. A tale of two valleys?

how the town takes flight, I’ll tell you what I saw
the help mounts cream white horses with their wheels turned out
surrounded in the halls by the words on the walls
whitewashing their natural call

have you seen the size of such and wide?
the spirit of the past has already come and died
at least that’s what they might say in some corners of eyes
in time, it will learn how to lie
in wasting rooms we have to maintain
the exit signs and time time time time time
forgotten rugs surplant in the corner of time and eye eye eye of the lines
of brown, and black, and red, and yellow in time time time time

government has tried to help us
they found a dozen worker bees inside the truck
and built them a home, so they can keep the honey alive
this world isn’t right
at the end of snowy nights
the dirt is absorbed by the white

 

OURAY AND CHIPETA

The power-couple predecessor to the Paepckes, Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta did everything they could to forge a positive union with the European settlers who came into the valley. As we see time and time again, the most fragile acts of diplomacy can be erased with the violent acts of a few. As the first silver mines were getting started, the Utes were simultaneously banished, due to an act of aggression. What would Ouray and Chipeta’s message be to us now? I can only imagine, and so I do. The second verse references a version of the Ute creation myth. The song keeps chipping away at the larger theme of these songs- What is a responsible, sustainable footprint for humans on this planet? Is there such a thing? How do we thrive without taking away from others?

What good is there in these lines
the sun doesn’t seem to know whose side is mine
when god looks at you in his heart, he floods the gun and stalls the trigger
that’s his precious part
so you got here, so you cut the wood, the wood in lines
so what do you own here
just lies

when all the men were in one box,
before the moondog ripped the cord and strew us apart
we were meant to love our spot
not to race around the world, cheating the dark
the DOW comes up and makes us high from the depth
the doe alights brightly, bright

nothingness has asked for me to sing this valley’s name
the way life couldn’t be, since we still roam
I just have to notice these
empty lonely rooms
That grow inside of you
this is what you won

PAUL ANDERSON SONGS AND LYRICS

THE DOWNVALLEY SHUFFLE

I do the downvalley shuffle
I commute in my car
Stop at Woody Creek and have a beer at the bar
And then I shuffle (shuffle-shuffle)

I’m just a buzzing worker bee on this ribbon of death
It’s Killer 82 and you can hold your breath…
And do the shuffle

I used to live upvalley, thought it really was great
A flimsy old shack with twenty roommates
But now I shuffle (shuffle-shuffle)

I drive a killer four-lane highway
It’s no wonder I’m glum
First a trailer park in Rifle
Now a Parachute slum
Downvalley shuffle

I tried to ride the bus, but it wasn’t so nice
I’d rather take my chances on that deadly black ice
And do the shuffle (shuffle-shuffle)

So if I’m up real early and I leave by five
I stand a fifty-fifty chance of getting to work – alive
Downvalley shuffle
I do the shuffle
The downvalley shuffle

GHOST BIKERS IN THE SKY
(to the tune of ‘Ghost Riders’)

A mountain biker pedaled out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he smoked a joint, then went along his way
When all at once a peleton of pedalheads he saw
A ridin’ down a single-track and up a cloudy draw

Ki-yay….. Yippee-Yi-Ooooooooo
Ghost bikers in the sky

Their wheels were true, their frames were light, titanium, I’d say
Their forks were straight, their angles steep, a thirteen-inch chainstay
They looked so rad and bitchin’ as they hammered through the sky
And they wore the latest lycra shorts, with bulging calves and thighs

Ki-yay….. Yippee-Yi-Ooooooooo
Ghost bikers in the sky

Their faces tan, their eyes were red, their bottles filled with MAX
Their fanny packs were stuffed with food, they carried hackey sacks
They’re gonna ride forever on that range up in the sky
Strung out on beer and endorphins, wish I could get that high

Ki-yay….. Yippee-Yi-Ooooooooo
Ghost bikers in the sky

As the riders stroked on by him each had anguish on his face
They were pushing hard the big chain ring, Shimano Biopace
They tipped their caps said “Adios, we’ll see you ‘round some day.”
Then they stood up on their pedals…and sprinted far away

Ki-yay….. Yippee-Yi-Ooooooooo
Ghost bikers in the sky

Trevor Wilson’s RESEARCH AND BIBLIOGRAPY (2015)

Bean,  Luther E.  – Lands of the Blue Sky People, Ye Old Print Shop, Alamosa, 1975.
Bry, Adelaide – est – Erhard Seminars Training, Harper & Row, New York, 1976.
Clifford, Peggy – To Aspen and Back – An American Journey, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1980.
Conover, Ted – Whiteout – Lost in Aspen, Random House, New York, 1991.
Kinkade, Stuart – Aspen Bummin’, Denver, 2000.
Krivonen, Marci – “Basalt Town Council Votes to “Explore Options” proposed by Pan and Fork advocacy group”, Aspen Public Radio, Dec 11, 2013.
Nelson, Jim – Glenwood Springs – A Quick History, Firstlight, Fort Collins, 1998.
O’Rourke, Paul M.  – Frontier in Transition: A History of Southwestern Colorado, Colorado State Office, Denver, 1980.
Pettit, Jan – Utes – The Mountain People, Johnson Books, Boulder, 1990.
Shoemaker, Len – Roaring Fork Valley, Sage Books, Denver, 1958.
Thompson, Hunter S. – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Random House, New York, 1971.
Additional points of reference gathered from Aspen Historical Society, Woody Creek Community Center, ACES, CRMS, individuals, businesses, and the valley itself.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

http://adventured.com/colorado-music-top-10-songs-about-colorado/

http://www.cmhof.org/inductees
And a big thank you to Trevor Wilson for his research on songs about our area.