By special request, this installment of Colorado Songs considers a song that is actually called “Colorado,” written by Rick Roberts.
Often, it is difficult to determine what may have motivated or inspired the composer of a song. That is not the case here because Rick Roberts wrote a book called Song Stories and Other Left-Handed Recollections in 2014 which explains many of his songs, including this one.
It seems that after high school he decided to travel from Florida to California to become a rock star. On the way, he passed through Boulder, Colorado and stayed for a few months. When he finally hitchhiked to Los Angeles, he found that becoming a star was not quite as easy as he had envisioned, and started thinking that maybe he had made a mistake leaving the beauty and culture of late-1960s Boulder. Then, he writes, “[t]hat was when this song came tumbling out. … It was one of the first songs I ever wrote that was not just an imitation of somebody else’s work.” The parts about the girl he left behind were made up for the sake of the song.
Roberts’ luck did change for the better. In 1970, Ed Tickner, the manager of the Flying Burrito Brothers, heard Rick playing at a small club. He was impressed with the young man at just the time Gram Parsons had left the Burritos and the group was looking for a replacement. Tickner and Chris Hillman invited Rick to join their group and his songwriting talents began to blossom. Within a few months, the Flying Burrito Brothers released their eponymous third album which included “Colorado” and six other songs written by Roberts..
The Flying Burrito Brothers essentially broke up shortly thereafter, though they continued with differing lineups as a country music group for many more years. Roberts, meanwhile, began a solo career and moved back to Colorado in the mid-1970s (answering the question at the end of this song: “Colorado, … won’t you let me come home?”). Although he initially split time between the Centennial State and California, he has been a full-time Colorado resident for more than 20 years now, and currently lives in Longmont, Colorado.
In 1974, while living in Colorado, Rick got together with guitarist Jock Bartley, who had earlier replaced Tommy Bolin in the legendary Colorado group, Zephyr, and Michael Clarke, who had played with the Byrds, and Mark Andes, formerly of Spirit, to form a group they named Firefall. That group had several hit records, but the personnel changed frequently, largely due to the musicians’ problems with drug and alcohol abuse.
Rick Roberts was one of those with a serious drinking problem, and he left Firefall in 1981 – though he rejoined the group for brief periods after that. For the next few years, Roberts’ life seemed consumed by alcohol and recovering from two serious automobile accidents, one of which required him to have 168 stitches in his face. In another book, Lame Brain: My Journey Back to Real Life (2015), Roberts relates how he faced those challenges .
Lame Brain also tells of another terrible injury he suffered. On May 6, 2006, he tripped on a throw rug in his home and struck his head on the kitchen island. A week later, he began bleeding profusely from the bump on his head and sought emergency medical care. He learned that the blow to his head had caused a subdural hematoma and cranial bleed. He began to lose motor control and within a few more weeks was confined to a wheelchair and unable to play guitar. His doctors told him he had only a 50/50 chance to ever walk again.
It took years of intensive therapy, but he did re-learn to walk, and by mid-2013 he had begun to sit in and play with local musicians. The following year he started a new group, Rick Roberts and Winter Rose. In 2015, he was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame as a member of Firefall.
By Rick Roberts
Hey Colorado, it was not so long ago
I left your mountain to try life on the road
Now I’m finished with that race it was much too fast a pace
And I think I know my place Colorado I wanna come home
There was a woman but I left her far behind
I could have loved her if I only had the time
Oh, but I stopped along the way just long enough to say
Lord, I’d really, really like to stay but my lady knows I’ve got to go
I was too young to know what I’ve done
I made my plans but I was wrong, yes, I was wrong
Hey Colorado, is it too late to change my mind?
I’ve done some thinking and I’m trying hard to find
The way, way to come back home, oh, I’ve been so very long alone
Won’t you take care of your own? Colorado, I think I’m coming home
Wanna come home
Won’t you let me come home?
© Silverwing Songs
For an index of the Colorado Songs in this series, please click here.