“I believe that we are here for each other, not against each other.
Everything comes from an understanding that you are a gift in my life
– whoever you are, whatever our differences.”
John Denver, 12/31/43 – 10/12/97
He was an American singer-songwriter, actor, activist and humanitarian, whose greatest commercial success was as a solo singer, starting in the 1970s.
Henry John Deutschendor, Jr., or as he is famously known, John Denver, was born on December 31, 1943 in Roswell, New Mexico.
Denver began his music career in folk music groups in the late 1960s. By 1969, he abandoned the music group life to pursue a solo career and released his first album for RCA Records: Rhymes & Reasons. Two years prior, Denver had made a self-produced demo recording of some of the songs he played at his concerts. He included in the demo a song he had written called “Babe I Hate to Go”, later renamed “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.
John Denver’s rise to stardom coincided during a bleak time in American life. The Vietnam war was ragging, and young people throughout the states were protesting the war. His music about life, love and the beauty of nature was a welcome respite from the violent war images on the evening news.
By the mid 1970s he was firmly established as America’s best-selling performer. He recorded and released over 300 songs, which about 200 he composed.
John Denver was not only a talented artist, he also had ecologic interest. He was one of the first entertainers to bring awareness to environmental issues. In his epic 1975 song “Calypso,” which is an ode to the exploration ship and team of environmental activist Jacques Cousteau, he donated all the revenue from the song to Jacques Cousteau’s Nonprofit Organization. He also campaigned against the whaling industry and worked with President Jimmy Carter to combat hunger in Africa.
He was also an avid pilot with over 2,700 hours of flying experience. Due to his love of flying, he was attracted to NASA and became dedicated to America’s work in outer space. He conscientiously worked to help bring into being the “Citizens in Space” program. In 1985, Denver passed NASA’s rigorous physical exam and was in line for a space flight, a finalist for the first citizen’s trip on the Space Shuttle in 1986, but he was not chosen. After the Challenger disaster with teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard, Denver dedicated his song “Flying for Me” to all astronauts, and he continued to support NASA.
One of John Denver’s passions was flying and a friend once asked him if he ever feared of dying in a plane crash? Denver said that he never worries about crashing, but if it’s his time to go, he would want to go in his plane.
He was killed on October 12, 1997 when his experimental Rutan Long-EZ plane crashed into Monterey Bay near Pacific Grove, California. At the time of the crash his pilot license had been revoked due to previous DUIs. However, the autopsy showed there was no drugs or alcohol in his system.
John Denver represented America at its best. He was a wonderful artist and thanks to his beautiful music he will live in our hearts forever.