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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", "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" and "Rocky Mountain High" are popular all over the world. His songs are characterised by sweet melodies, elegant guitar-strumming, and his soulful rendition of the lyrics.
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 biggest selling artists of the 1970s. In his lifetime, he recorded and released 289 songs, 140 of which he wrote.
Denver was born in Roswell, New Mexico. His father, Henry Deutschendorf, Sr., was an Air Force officer and flight instructor, and his family moved around the American southwest and south a lot while Denver was growing up. Denver was a life long Christian, raised Lutheran, but often said he shared many beliefs that the Zen Buddhists had.
As a teenager, he received a 1910 Gibson acoustic guitar from his grandmother, and polished his skills enough to be able to perform at local clubs by the time he was in college. Adopting the surname "Denver" after his favorite city, Denver dropped out of Texas Tech University in 1964, and moved to Los Angeles, California to join the Chad Mitchell Trio, a folk group. He left the group, which was by then known as Denver, Boise and Johnson, in 1969 to pursue a solo career, and released his first LP, Rhymes and Reasons.
It wasn't a hit, but it contained "Leaving, On A Jet Plane", which became a number one hit for Peter, Paul and Mary two years later. He recorded two more albums in 1970: "Whose Garden Was This?" and "Take Me to Tomorrow".
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 "I'm Sorry(/Calypso)"), a Top Twenty hit ("Sweet Surrender"), and another number two hit ("Calypso (/I'm Sorry)".)
Denver was a major presence in the US during this period, hosting numerous TV specials, and appearing on the Muppet Show. He even tried his hands at acting starring in the 1977 film, Oh, God! opposite George Burns.
In 1975, he was recognized as the Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year. By this time, many people considered him the most popular artist of the 1970's, and a legend in the making.
In 1977, he co-founded The Hunger Project, on whose board he served for many years, and which he supported until his demise. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the President's Commission on World Hunger.
In 1979, he performed "Rhymes & Reasons" at the Music for UNICEF Concert, which gained him exposure to worldwide audiences; he donated the royalties from the song to UNICEF.
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 and 1980s began, but nothing to match the success he enjoyed earlier.
As his popularity waned, Denver focused more on his 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 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.
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 those of his musical counterparts and his testimony was arguably the strongest to influence Congress. Denver also toured Russia in 1985 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 China. 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.
In Denver's hometown, the resort city of Aspen, he became a promoter of its free-spirited culture.
On October 12, 1997 Denver died when the Long-EZ aircraft he was piloting ran out of fuel just off the coast at Pacific Grove, CA. Denver apparently lost control of the aircraft while attempting to manipulate the fuel selector handle. Denver had recently purchased the aircraft and had about a half-hour orientation flight 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. Denver's short-cut but legendary life was honored at the following Grammys and Country Music Awards. His music remains popular with all ages to this day, and more previously unreleased and un-noticed recordings are now being seen as sought after gems of both the Folk and Country genres, bringing long awaited unity to Denver's fans.
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 were close friends of Denver's and his family, and 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, John Prine, David Mallet, and many others in the folk scene.
In chronological order, 1969-1991 (U.S. Releases)
• 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
• Higher Ground — 1989
• Earth Songs — 1990
• The Flower That Shattered the Stone — 1990
• Christmas, Like a Lullaby — 1990
• Different Directions — 1991
• "Leaving, On a Jet Plane" (1969)
• "Friends With You" (1971) #47 US
• "Take Me Home, Country Roads" (1971) #1 US
• "Everyday" (1972) #81 US
• "Goodbye Again" (1972) #88 US
• "Farewell Andromeda (Welcome To My Morning)" (1973) #89 US
• "I'd Rather Be A Cowboy" (1973) #62 US
• "Please, Daddy" (1973)
• "Rocky Mountain High" (1973) #9 US
• "Sunshine on My Shoulders" (1974) #1 US
• "Annie's Song" (1974) #1 US, #1 UK
• "Back Home Again" (1974) #5 US
• "Please, Daddy" (re-release) (1974) #69 US
• "Calypso (/I'm Sorry)" (1975) #2 US
• "Christmas For Cowboys" (1975) #58 US
• "I'm Sorry(/Calypso)" (1975) #1 US
• "Sweet Surrender" (1975) #13 US
• "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" (1975) #1 US
• "Fly Away" (1976) #13 US
• "It Makes Me Giggle" (1976) #60 US
• "Like a Sad Song" (1976) #36 US
• "Looking For Space" (1976) #29 US
• "Baby, You Look Good To Me Tonight" (1977) #65 US
• "How Can I Leave You Again" (1977)
• "My Sweet Lady" (1977) #32 US
• "How Can I Leave You Again" (re-release) (1978) #44 US
• "I Want To Live" (1978) #55 US
• "Downhill Stuff" (1979)
• "Sweet Melinda" (1979)
• "What's On Your Mind" (1979)
• "Autograph" (1980) #52 US
• "Dancing With The Mountains" (1980) #97 US
• "Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)" (1981) #38 US
• "The Cowboy And The Lady" (1981) #66 US
• "Perhaps Love" (with Plбcido Domingo) (1982) #59 US, #42 UK
• "Seasons Of The Heart" (1982) #78 US
• "Shanghai Breeze" (1982) #31 US
• "Wild Montana Skies" (1983)
• "Love Again" (1984) #85 US
• "Dreamland Express" (1985)
• "Along for the Ride ('56 T-Bird)" (1986)
• "And So It Goes" (1989)
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" (re-release) (1993)
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