About the song

John Denver’s Berkeley Woman. Now that’s a song that takes you back, doesn’t it? Released in 1973 on his album Farewell Andromeda, it became a surprise hit for Denver, known more for his odes to mountain ranges and country landscapes. But Berkeley Woman offered a glimpse into a different world, a world of folk cafes and free spirits.

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The song itself is a delightful character sketch. Denver, with his signature folksy charm, tells the story of encountering a woman in Berkeley, California. This wasn’t just any woman, mind you. This was a Berkeley Woman, a term that conjured up images of a certain counterculture type – independent, artistic, perhaps a touch bohemian.

The lyrics paint a vivid picture. We see her sitting in a rocking chair, a dulcimer resting on her lap, a feather adorning her hair. The way Denver describes her movements – the swaying with the rhythm of the chair, the rosy cheeks – creates a sense of carefree joy and a connection to nature.

There’s a hint of subversion too, a gentle wink at the societal norms of the time. Here’s a woman who embraces her natural beauty, who doesn’t need makeup to feel attractive.

It’s important to remember the context of the song’s release. The early 70s were a time of social and political upheaval in the United States. The Vietnam War raged on, the Watergate scandal unfolded, and the counterculture movement continued to challenge the status quo. Berkeley, a hotbed of student activism and progressive ideals, became a symbol of this era.

Berkeley Woman, then, becomes more than just a song about a captivating woman. It’s a snapshot of a time and place, a celebration of a certain free spirit that resonated with many. Denver, though not necessarily a political songwriter himself, captures the essence of this spirit with warmth and good humor.

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So, as you listen to Berkeley Woman, let yourself be transported back to that time. Imagine the folk cafes buzzing with conversation, the dulcimer’s gentle melody filling the air, and a woman, radiating independence and joy, rocking contentedly in a chair. It’s a simple picture, but one that captures a very specific moment in American culture, all thanks to the folksy charm of John Denver.

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