Sunday, October 12, 2008

John Denver

"Music is far more than just entertainment, It's a tool for coping." - John Denver

"My purpose in performing, is too communicate the joy I experience in living." - John Denver

Eleven years ago today, John Denver died as the result of an accident. He was piloting an experimental light aircraft, when it crashed off the coast of California. He was 53.

John Denver was born "Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr." on December 31, 1943 in Roswell, New Mexico. The family moved frequently around the south and southwestern U.S. as his father was an Air Force officer and flight instructor. He was given his grandmother's guitar when he was 11 and later took lessons and joined a boys choir. At age 20, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of a music career. His friends urged him to change his last name so that it would be easier to find a recording contract. He chose the name Denver after the Colorado city and the state in which he had spent part of his youth.

He beat out 250 other hopefuls to become the lead singer for The Mitchell Trio (formerly The Chad Mitchell Trio) in 1963. During his stint with the group, he honed his vocal talents and songwriting skills - even composing the song "Leaving On A Jet Plane" for folk group Peter. Paul and Mary. After the group disbanded, he launched a solo career.

By his third album in 1970, he had developed a strong passion for environmental and humanitarian causes. He was one of the first performers to share his environmental message. His lyrics and performances reflected his beliefs.

Over his more than 30 year career, he toured extensively in North America as well as Europe, the former USSR and China. He recorded over 30 albums and earned 14 Gold and 8 Platinum albums in the USA and numerous more in other countries throughout the world. John also earned many musical awards and humanitarian honours.

He guest starred on numerous music and variety shows (including The Muppets) and even tried his hand at acting. In 1977, he co-starred with George Burns in "Oh, God!". A TV movie, called "The Christmas Gift" was released in 1986.

John inherited his fathers love of planes and was licensed to fly small planes up to Learjet's. Flying made him feel free. He also loved fly fishing, hiking, golfing and numerous other outdoor activities.

I remember hearing the news that John Denver had died. I was stunned and deeply saddened. I had sung many of his songs when I was younger. I had several of his recordings and even had a John Denver song book. I never got to see him in concert, but I saw many of his TV concerts and specials. During the summer of 1976, I spent a week at a Christian music seminar and camp in Estes Park Colorado. I vividly remember the beauty of the mountains and singing John Denver songs to myself as I went for daily walks.

It wasn't always cool to be a John Denver fan, but millions of us were and still are. His legacy of more than 300 songs of pop, folk, country and ballads makes it really hard to pick a favourite. His lyrics spoke to the heart of the listener. His melodies and strong tenor voice brought his words to life and echo in our memories. Every song takes you to a different place in your life.

How can you possibly narrow it down to one or two favourites, when there are classics like: "Annie's Song"; "Aspenglow"; "Back Home Again"; "Calypso"; "Fly Away"; "Follow Me"; "For Baby (For Bobbie)"; "Goodbye Again"; "Grandma's Feather Bed"; "I'm Sorry"; "Leaving On A Jet Plane"; "Like A Sad Song"; "Perhaps Love"; "Poems, Prayers and Promises"; "Rhymes and Reasons"; "Rocky Mountain High"; "Sunshine on My Shoulders"; "Sweet Surrender"; "Take Me Home Country Roads"; "Thank God I'm a Country Boy"; "This Old Guitar"; and countless others?

I certainly can't pick just one, which is why I have all of these and a few more on my mp3!

John Denver was a singer, instrumentalist, composer, record producer, actor, pilot, sportsman, enviormentalist, humanitarian, social and political activist, husband and father. You can read even more about this gifted man by following any of these links;

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