- Category : Musician - Popular
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Split - Small (56)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Demands 2
- Birth Year: 1943
- Birthday: 31. December
- Birthplace: Roswell, USA - New Mexico
- Category: Musician - Popular
- Profile: 6-2
- Type: Emotional Manifesting Generator
- Inc.Cross: Demands 2
- Definition: Double Split - Small (56)
- Variables: BRR-MLL
- 0463 Logic
- 2145 The Money Line
- 1858 Judgment
- 1648 The Wavelength
- 1333 The Prodigal
- 0659 Mating
John Denver (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997), born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was an American folk singer-songwriter and folk rock musician who was one of the most popular artists of the 1970s. He recorded and released some 300 songs, about half of which he had composed, and was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1977.
Denver's songs were suffused with a deep and abiding kinship with the natural world. Songs such as "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "Leaving on a Jet Plane", "Calypso", "Annie's Song", "Thank God I'm A Country Boy", and "Rocky Mountain High" are popular worldwide. Denver has been referred to as "The Poet For the Planet", "Mother Nature's Son" (based on The Beatles song he covered) and "A Song's Best Friend".
Denver was born in Roswell, New Mexico to Erma Louise Swope and Henry John Deutschendorf, Sr., an Air Force officer and flight instructor. As a typical military brat his family moved around the American Southwest and South while Denver was growing up.
Denver was a Christian in his early life, reared Presbyterian, and converted to Lutheranism, but he often said he shared many beliefs with Zen Buddhists. He also felt he had a connection with the indigenous people of North America. In his memoirs, Denver cited that as a child he had some troubles at home, mostly with his father.
By far Denver's most folk album, Rhymes and Reasons would open up his life long solo career.At the age of 12, he received a 1910 Gibson f-hole acoustic jazz guitar from his grandmother, and polished his skills enough to be able to perform at local clubs by the time he was in college. He adopted the surname 'Denver', for the capital of his favorite state, after he was told that 'Deutschendorf' wouldn't fit comfortably on a marquee. He dropped out of the School of Engineering (Architecture) at Texas Tech University in Lubbock in 1964, and moved to Los Angeles, California. Denver sang in the smoky underground folk clubs in L.A., and in 1965 joined the Chad Mitchell Trio, a folk group later renamed "The Mitchell Trio" and then "Denver, Boise, and Johnson".
In 1969, he abandoned the band life to pursue a solo career, and released his first album for RCA Records, Rhymes and Reasons. It was not a huge hit, but it contained "Leaving On A Jet Plane", which became a number one hit for Peter, Paul and Mary that same year. He recorded two more albums in 1970, Whose Garden Was This? and Take Me to Tomorrow. Although these albums were not as successful as those that followed, they would all be certified gold by the RIAA, and later considered to be some of Denver's most revered work.
Peak of career
Denver's next album, Poems, Prayers and Promises, released the following year, was a breakthrough for him in America, thanks in part to the single, "Take Me Home, Country Roads," which went to number two. His career flourished from then on, and the hits came pouring in for the next four years. In 1972, Denver scored his first top ten album, with Rocky Mountain High, while its title track reached the Top Ten in 1973. In 1974, "Sunshine on My Shoulders" and "Annie's Song" both went to number one, and "Back Home Again" made it to number five. In 1975, he again had two number ones, "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" and "Calypso/I'm Sorry," and a top twenty hit, "Sweet Surrender."
Denver hosted numerous television specials including several world-televised concerts from Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver. His seasonal special "Rocky Mountain Christmas" was watched by over 60 million people and was the highest rated show for the ABC Network at that time, while his live concert special, "An Evening with John Denver" won the Emmy award for Best Variety or Musical Special of the same year.
He also made appearances on The Muppet Show. This relationship was the beginning of a life-long friendship between Denver and Jim Henson which spawned two television specials Denver made with The Muppets. He even tried his hand at acting starring in the 1977 film, Oh, God! opposite George Burns. Denver would go on to host the Grammy Awards five times in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as guest-host The Tonight Show multiple times.
1972's Rocky Mountain HighIn 1975, he was recognized as the Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year. At the Country Music Association awards ceremony, reigning Entertainer of the Year Charlie Rich (who himself had a series of crossover hits) was to present the award to his successor; instead of reading the name of the winner, he set fire to the envelope with a cigarette lighter and announced in tones of disgust, "My good friend, John Denver!". Some considered it a statement against country pop and the Music Row-controlled Nashville Sound, while others rejected Rich's actions.
In 1977, he co-founded The Hunger Project, along with Werner Erhard and Robert W. Fuller. Denver served for many years, and supported the organization until his death. He was also appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the President's Commission on World Hunger. He wrote and dedicated the song "I Want to Live" as the theme song for the Hunger Project.
In 1979, he performed "Rhymes & Reasons" at the Music for UNICEF Concert, which gained him exposure to worldwide audiences. Royalties from the concert performances were donated to UNICEF.
Image and politics
Denver had a distinctive and trend-setting image, his blond hair cut in a "Dutch-boy" style, complemented by bell-bottom jeans and cowboy boots. He was known for the catch phrase "Far out!" that punctuated his concerts and conversation, his happy, positive image, and his western accent. As his interests began to go beyond just his music, Denver put his appeal to good use in many areas.
Denver became outspoken in politics in the mid-seventies. In 1976, he campaigned for Jimmy Carter, who became a close friend and ally. Denver was a supporter of the Democratic Party, and a number of charitable causes for the environment, the homeless, the poor, the African AIDS crisis, and hunger. He founded the charitable Windstar Foundation in 1976 to promote sustainable living. His dismay at the Chernobyl disaster led to precedent-setting concerts in parts of communist Asia and Europe.
During the 1980s, he was a critic of the Reagan Administration's environmental and defense spending policies, advocated uni-lateral disarmament of the United States, and opposed free market economics. His outrage at the conservative politics of the 1980s was famously expressed in Denver's autobiographical folk rock ballad Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For). Denver was also critical of the Republican-dominated Congress and American Conservatism of the 1990s. He denounced the National Rifle Association (NRA) as a corrupt political machine that could buy off politicians in an open letter he wrote to the media opposing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Denver had battled to expand the refuge in the 1980s, and praised President Bill Clinton for his opposition to the proposed drilling and desire to rely more on imported oil. The letter, which he wrote in the midst of the 1996 Presidential election, was one of the last Denver would ever write.
Despite his many differences with Republican leaders and Presidents, Denver was a sought-after guest at state dinners hosted by Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush. His "all-American" image and soft spoken lyrics of peace and harmony made him a popular entertainer. In 1972, at a Washington, D.C. concert, Nixon and then Premier of the People's Republic of China Zhou Enlai were members of the audience. After the concert, which included Denver's infamous parodies "The Ballad of Richard Nixon" and "The Ballad of Spiro Agnew" , the Premier purchased 500 cassette tapes of the country folk ballad "Take Me Home, Country Roads".
John Denver was a graduate of Werner Erhard's Erhard Seminars Training (est):
"He was an early follower of Werner Erhard, founder of the self-improvement association known as est (Erhard Seminars Training). Denver once asked Erhard if he might become a trainer in the est organization, but was told he could contribute more by continuing his career as an entertainer— spreading the message, through his music, of taking personal responsibility for whatever happens in the world. Several of his subsequent songs reflected that philosophy."
Denver wrote and dedicated the song "Looking for Space" to est. This song came from his 1975 album "Windsong". It became the theme song for the training organization.
Denver supported space activism and was once slated to go into space. He was on the Board of Governors of the National Space Society for many years.
Later years and humanitarian work
In subsequent years, Denver had a lower-profile career. He had a few more U.S. Top 30 hits as the 1970s ended, but nothing to match the success he enjoyed earlier. As his career slowed down, Denver focused more on humanitarian and sustainability work. He worked extensively on conservation projects and helped to create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Denver made public expression of his acquaintance or friendship with ecological-design researchers like Richard Buckminster Fuller and Amory Lovins, from whom he said he learned much. He also founded his own environmental group, the Windstar Foundation. Denver had a keen interest in the causes of and solution to hunger, and visited Africa during the 1980s to witness first-hand the suffering caused by starvation and to work with African leaders towards a solution.
In 1983 and 1984 Denver hosted the annual Grammy Awards which are presented by the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). The 1983 presentation was noteworthy as for the shows finale, Denver was joined on-stage by Folk Music Legend, Joan Baez. Baez and Denver lead an all-star version of Blowing In The Wind, and Let The Sunshine In. They were joined on stage by such diverse musical icons as Jennifer Warnes, Donna Summer, and the late Rick James.
Denver testified alongside Frank Zappa and Dee Snider on the topic of censorship during a Parents Music Resource Center hearing in 1985. His appearance and music sharply contrasted with those of his musical counterparts and his testimony was arguably the strongest influence on Congress. Denver also toured Russia in 1985, met with Communist Party luminaries at every opportunity, and returned two years later to perform at a benefit concert for the victims of the Chernobyl accident. In October 1992, he undertook a multiple city tour of Communist China, shaking hands and meeting with Communist Party leaders through every city. Denver also released the "Homegrown" CD of his greatest hits to raise money for charities helping the homeless.
In 1994, he published his autobiography, Take Me Home. In 1996, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and his "legend" status was ensured.
In early 1997, Denver filmed an episode for the Nature series, centering on the natural wonders that inspired many of his best-loved songs. The episode contains his last song, "Yellowstone, Coming Home," which he composed while rafting along the Colorado River with his son and young daughter.
When his career as a musical icon slowed down and his humanitarian work picked up its pace, Denver had two incidents involving driving under the influence of alcohol. In 1993 he pleaded guilty to "driving while impaired", and a 1994 incident ended with a hung jury in 1997 when his defense argued that a thyroid condition rendered the alcohol tests unreliable.
Denver's first marriage was to Annie Martell of St. Peter, Minnesota. Annie was the subject of his much-beloved hit "Annie's Song". He and Annie adopted a son (Zachary) and daughter (Anna Kate) after determining that Denver was infertile. Zachary was the subject of "A Baby Just Like You," a song he wrote for Frank Sinatra who also appeared on the Muppet Christmas Special. After divorce from Annie in 1982, he later married Australian actress and singer Cassandra Delaney in 1988. They had a daughter named Jesse Belle, after Denver had medical treatment for his infertility. In the years after his second divorce, Denver and Annie Martell began to reconcile their friendship. At the time of his death, a rumor spread from the tabloid The Enquirer suggested reconciliation of their marriage; but no evidence has arisen supporting this claim.
On October 12, 1997, Denver was killed when the Long-EZ aircraft he was piloting crashed just off the coast of California at Pacific Grove.
The Long-EZ that Denver was flying is a two-seat experimental aircraft, designed in the 1970s by Burt Rutan. Denver's particular plane, bought used, had been changed from Rutan's original published plans: The fuel tank selector valve had been moved from a location just aft of the nose gear wheel housing and between the pilot's legs to the bulkhead behind and to the left of the pilot's (front) seat.
Denver apparently lost control of the aircraft while attempting to manipulate the fuel selector handle after running out of fuel in one tank. Witnesses stated that the plane made a sudden pitch-down plunge into the water, leading to speculation that, in reaching around to the rear, Denver bumped or kicked the side-stick control. The official investigation decided that he had likely inadvertently pushed the right rudder pedal trying to gain leverage to turn in his seat to reach the fuel handle.
A pilot with over 2700 hours of experience, Denver had multiengine, instrument, and Learjet type ratings. He had recently purchased the Long-EZ aircraft and had taken a half-hour checkout flight with the aircraft the day before the accident. The NTSB cited Denver's unfamiliarity with the aircraft and his failure to have the aircraft refueled as causal factors in the accident. Denver was the sole occupant of the aircraft. Prior to the accident, the FAA had learned of his failure to abstain entirely from alcohol subsequent to prior drunk driving arrests, and since his medical certification was conditional on this, a determination was made that due to his drinking problem he was not qualified for any class of medical certification at the time. At least a third-class medical was required to exercise the privileges of his pilot certificate. There was no trace of alcohol or any other drug in Denver's body at autopsy, however. Dental records were used to confirm the pilot of the Long-EZ as Denver.
Upon announcement of his death, Governor Roy Romer of Colorado ordered all Colorado flags to be lowered to half-staff to honor Denver. He was cremated alongside his 1910 Gibson guitar that his grandmother had given him, and subsequently inspired much of his legacy. Denver's life was celebrated at funeral services at Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Colorado on October 17, 1997. His ashes were scattered in the Rocky Mountains. Further tributes were made at the following Grammys and Country Music Association Awards. Denver's final album, All Aboard! consisted of old fashioned swing, big band, folk, bluegrass and gospel styles of music woven into a theme of railroad songs. All Aboard! won a posthumous Best Musical Album For Children Grammy, a fitting end to Denver's career.
In 2000, the CBS television movie Take Me Home: The John Denver Story was released, loosely-based on Denver's memoirs, starring Chad Lowe. However, Denver's brother, Ron Deutschendorf voiced the feelings of many of the singer's fans when he wrote a letter to the LA Times criticizing the films many inaccuracies: chronic chronological errors, the release dates of Denver's biggest hits, an exaggeration of his relationship difficulties with his father and a totally superficial treatment of Denver's commitment to his various causes. As one critic observed "An overachiever like John Denver couldn't have been this boring." In a letter to "The World Family of John Denver", Ron Deutschendorf has since expressed the desire to make a feature film which accurately portrays the events of his famous elder sibling's life.
John Denver's music remains very popular around the world. Previously unreleased and unnoticed recordings are now sought-after collectibles of both the folk and country genres.Also in demand are copies of Denver's many television appearances,especially his one hour specials from the 1970s and his 6 part series for Britain's BBC, The John Denver Show. Despite strong interest in these programmes, the vast majority of this material still shows no sign of "official" release.
An anthology musical featuring John Denver's music, "Back Home Again: A John Denver Holiday," premiered at the Rubicon Theatre Company in November of 2006.
Main article: The John Denver Band
Denver started his recording career with the Chad Mitchell Trio; his distinctive voice can be heard where he sings solo on Violets of Dawn. He recorded three albums with the Mitchell Trio, replacing Chad Mitchell himself as lead singer. His group Denver, Boise and Johnson released a single before he moved on to a solo career.
Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, co-writers of Denver's most familiar song, Take Me Home, Country Roads, were close friends of him and his family. The pair appeared as singers and songwriters on many of Denver's albums until they formed the Starland Vocal Band in 1976. The band's albums were released on Denver's Windsong Records (also known as Windstar Records) label.
Denver's early solo success is often attributed to the recording of his Leaving on a Jet Plane which was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. It became a number 1 hit for the group.
Denver recorded songs by Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen, John Prine, David Mallett, and many others in the folk scene. His record company, Windstar, is still an active record label today.
Olivia Newton-John, whose across-the-board appeal to pop, MOR, and country audiences in the mid-1970s was similar to Denver's, lent her distinctive backup vocals to Denver's 1975 single "Fly Away." She also covered his "Take Me Home, Country Roads," and had a hit in the United Kingdom (#15 in 1973) and Japan (#6 in a belated 1976 release) with it. Her recording of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is featured in the opening credits of the Anime film "Whisper of the Heart".
Awards and recognition
Best Musical Album For Children, 1997, "All Aboard!"
Grammy Hall of Fame Award, 1998, "Take Me Home, Country Roads"
American Music Awards
Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist, 1975, 1976
Favorite Country Male Artist, 1976
Favorite Country Album, 1976, "Back Home Again"
Country Music Association Awards
Song of the Year, 1975, "Back Home Again"
Entertainer of the Year, 1975
Academy of Country Music Awards
Album of the Year, 1974, "Back Home Again"
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special, 1975, "An Evening with John Denver"