John Denver

From Academic Kids

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John Denver

John Denver (December 31, 1943October 12, 1997), born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and actor.


Early Years

John Denver was born in Roswell, New Mexico. His first experience with music came when his grandmother gave him a 1910 Gibson acoustic guitar.


Denver had a successful singing and songwriting career, and a minor career as an actor—his most notable film credit being in 1977's Oh, God! opposite George Burns. In 1994 Denver wrote an autobiography entitled Take Me Home. He was born in Roswell, New Mexico, lived most of his adult life in Aspen, Colorado and died off the coast of Monterey, California while piloting a Rutan Long-EZ, an experimental fiberglass airplane. Denver's plane had the fuel tank selector located behind his seat and it is believed he lost control while trying to engage the secondary fuel tank.

Denver was recognized not only for his musical ability but also for his humanitarian work. He worked extensively on conservation projects and helped to create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He also founded his own environmental group called 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 also to work with African leaders towards a solution.

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John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together

After an enjoyable experience as a guest on The Muppet Show, he recorded two Muppet television specials: John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979) and John Denver and the Muppets: Rocky Mountain Holiday (1982).

Defying all conventional labels, John Denver held a singular place in American music: a songwriter whose immensely popular work was suffused with a deep and abiding kinship with the natural world. Songs such as 'Country Roads', 'Leaving on a Jet Plane', 'Rocky Mountain High' are popular the world over. His songs are characterised by their sweet melodies, elegant guitar-strumming and his soulful rendition of the lyrics. He became one of the few western singers widely known in the non-European world including Africa, India and South-East Asia.

In the months just prior to his death in a plane accident in 1997 at the age of only 53, Denver was filming an episode of the Nature series, centering on the natural wonders that inspired many of his best-loved songs. The result is a poignant and melodic film that records his final journeys into the wilderness and contains his last song, "Yellowstone, Coming Home", composed while rafting along the Colorado River with his son and young daughter.

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Lyrics to "Rocky Mountain High" in Rio Grande Park in Aspen, Colorado. Denver was a longtime resident of the resort city and a promoter of its off-beat free-spririted culture.

The mass media published inconsistent versions for the cause of the untimely plane crash. There were multiple, serial causes of the crash. First, it is believed that the aircraft completed takeoff with the fuel selector set to a nearly empty tank, so that only the small amount of fuel in the fuel lines was available to the engine. Second, the aircraft's fuel selector valve was not installed according to the aircraft designer's plans and was difficult to reach, being behind the left shoulder of the pilot. Third, on Denver's aircraft, the fuel selector handle had been replaced with a Vise Grips, complicating operation of the selector further. Finally, due to Denver's preoccupation with the fuel selector, he may have unintentionally put the aircraft into a steep bank. According to the NTSB accident report, the investigators noted a natural reaction for the pilot's right foot to depress the right rudder pedal when turning in the seat to reach the fuel selector handle. With the right rudder depressed in flight, the airplane would pitch up slightly & bank to the right. Although, an eyewitness stated that she heard a pop and saw a puff of smoke.

Related artists

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 appeared as singers and songwriters on many of Denver's albums up until forming the Starland Vocal Band in 1976. The band's albums were released on Denver's Windstar label.

Denver's early solo success was largely due to a 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, David Mallet, and many others in the folk scene.

Urban legends

Denver has been the subject of an urban legend stating that he served as a sniper during the Vietnam war. This is in fact untrue. He was classified 1-Y (qualified for service only in time of [declared] war or national emergency) by the draft board and Denver never served in any branch of the US military [1] (


In chronological order, 1969-1991 (U.S. Releases)

RCA Records

  • Rhymes & Reasons - 1969
  • Take Me To Tomorrow - 1970
  • Whose Garden Was This? - 1970
  • Poems, Prayers, and Promises - 1971
  • Aerie - 1972
  • Rocky Mountain High - 1972
  • Farewell Andromeda - 1973
  • Greatest Hits - 1973 ††
  • Back Home Again - 1974
  • An Evening with John Denver (live) - 1975
  • Windsong - 1975
  • Rocky Mountain Christmas - 1975
  • Spirit - 1976
  • Greatest Hits Vol. 2 - 1977
  • I Want To Live - 1977
  • John Denver (JD) - 1978
  • A Christmas Together (with The Muppets) - 1979
  • Autograph - 1980
  • Some Days Are Diamonds - 1981
  • Seasons of the Heart - 1982
  • It's About Time - 1983
  • Rocky Mountain Holiday (with The Muppets) - 1983
  • Greatest Hits Vol. 3 - 1984
  • Dreamland Express - 1985
  • One World - 1986

Windstar Records

  • Higher Ground - 1989
  • Earth Songs - 1990
  • The Flower That Shattered the Stone - 1990
  • Christmas, Like a Lullaby - 1990
  • Different Directions - 1991

† Albums widely considered to be among Denver's most important works.

†† The first "Greatest Hits" album is important historically because it contains new, revisionist recordings of several hit songs. After its release these versions were used for airplay despite differing in subtle but important ways from the original versions; generally, they are more polished.

Songs of note

  • "Annie's Song", written in the 1970s, for his wife Annie.
  • "Rocky Mountain High"
  • "For Baby"
  • "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" - gained popularity amongst Baltimore Orioles fans as a song played during the baseball team's seventh-inning stretch.
  • "Leaving, On a Jet Plane"
  • "Take Me Home, Country Roads" - The de facto anthem of West Virginia, though it has no official status
  • "Sunshine On My Shoulders"
  • "Calypso" - A musical tribute to Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his crew

See also

External links

nl:John Denver nds:John Denver


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