John Denver Biography
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In a career that has spanned more than two decades, John Denver earned international acclaim as a songwriter, performer, actor and humanitarian. Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. began his career in the 1960s as an aspiring folk musician in the clubs of Los Angeles. The son of a U.S. Air Force officer, John took his performing name from the premier Rocky Mountain city in the state where he eventually made his home.
Denver's first major break came when he was chosen from 250 other hopefuls as lead singer for the popular Mitchell Trio, with whom he sang for two years. His songwriting skills were noted when Peter, Paul and Mary recorded his "Leaving On A Jet Plane," which became their first Number One hit.
Less than two years later, Denver was himself zooming up the Pop charts with "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High," "Sunshine On My Shoulders," "Annie's Song," "Back Home Again," "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," "Calypso" and more, solidifying his position as one of the top stars of the decade. Many of his songs tapped into the growing appreciation and concern for the environment, which has continued as a matter of major importance for Denver and for us all.
Denver's popularity since the early 1970s may be measured in record sales that few other artists have achieved, including 14 gold albums and 8 platinum albums in the U.S. alone. He has had many gold and platinum sales overseas as well, in countries including Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom. John Denver is one of the top five recording artists in the sales history of the music industry.
Denver's concert tours reached millions globally, from the U.S. and Canada throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the Orient and the United Kingdom... his travels crossing ideological lines, as well. In 1984, he was invited by the Soviet Union of Composers to perform in their country. The success of that visit led to a concert tour of the U.S.S.R. in 1985. These were the first performances by an American artist since the suspension, at that time, of cultural exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union. He returned to the U.S.S.R. in 1987 to do a benefit concert for the victims of Chernobyl. Denver was the first artist from the West to do a multi-city tour of mainland China, in October 1992. He was pleased and somewhat astonished to discover how popular and well-known his songs were with the Chinese. "Country Roads," he was told, "is the most famous song written in the West."
"My music and all my work stem from the conviction that people everywhere are intrinsically the same," Denver said in a 1995 interview. "When I write a song, I want to take the personal experience or observation that inspired it and express it in as universal a way as possible. I'm a global citizen. I've created that for myself, and I don't want to step away from it. I want to work in whatever I do - my music, my writing, my performing, my commitments, my home and personal life - in a way that is directed towards a world in balance, a world that creates a better quality of life for all people."
This, among other dedications, led to the establishment of the Windstar Foundation, a non-profit environmental education and research center co-founded by Denver in 1976 that works toward a sustainable future for the world.
Not just a fine performer, Denver's music clearly reflects the conscience of a concerned citizen, a man working for the improvement of the quality of life for all peoples - environmentally, socially and politically.
"One of the great things about my success is that it's given greater visibility to what I'm doing, and what I've continued to do throughout my career, about the things which are so important to me: the environment and the sense of global community which we're moving closer and closer to, whether we recognize it or not," Denver said in the same interview.
He served as a member of the Presidential Commission on World and Domestic Hunger. He was one of the five founders of The Hunger Project, and, as part of both that commitment and to UNICEF as well, he was a member of the fact-finding delegation which toured African countries devastated by drought and starvation. Denver was awarded the Presidential "World Without Hunger" Award; he supported the National Wildlife Federation, Save the Children, the Cousteau Society, Friends of the Earth and the Human/Dolphin Foundation, to name just a few.
Denver created "Plant-It 2000," a plan that urges people all over the world to plant as many trees as possible by the year 2000. This reforestation project aimed at encouraging citizens everywhere to recognize the necessity of replenishing what the world has wantonly destroyed. "Plant-It 2000" met with instant response from people everywhere in all walks of life, including major foundations, businesses and institutions. Nearly 100,000 trees have been planted in its first year of operation.
Denver's enthusiasm for the environment musically came to life with The WildLife Concert. In 1995, Denver performed this multi-media event (TV special, album, home video, international tour) in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The WCS, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, is one of the largest conservation organizations in the world. Denver served on its Board of Advisors.
"They're doing more hands-on work in protecting species and habitats than any single organization in the world," Denver explained. "But few people know about the Society and the incredibly good work that they do. Helping to produce this concert marks the first time that they've gone public in this way, and it was truly thrilling for me to have them as a sponsor."
Denver's numerous tributes and awards include acknowledgements as the Number One recording artist in the U.S., Favorite Music Performer, People's Choice Awards, AGVA Singing Star of the Year, Yamaha Music Award and recognition from many governments for his concert about global hunger problems. In the summer of 1993, Denver was the recipient of the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Music Award, given to him "For a life's work dedicated to music and devoted to humanity." It was the first time a non-classical music artist had been so honored.
Denver's movie debut in "Oh God!" (with George Burns) was a solid hit, as were his TV roles that included starring in "Foxfire" with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn. He also starred and guest starred in many TV specials - with such notable artists as Itzhak Perlman, Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo, Julie Andrews and the beloved frog, Kermit. Indeed, Denver's Christmas special "John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together," is considered a classic. In 1993, Denver completed his first movie since "Oh, God!" called "Walking Thunder," it stars him as he most likes to be - in country clothes, under an open sky.
Many people know of Denver's two passions: flying and outer space. He has flown Air Force F-15 fighters and the Space Shuttle simulator. NASA awarded him its public service medal for helping "increase awareness of space exploration by the people of the world."
A fine photographer as well, Denver photographed people and places all over the world and showed his photos professionally, often in connection with speeches made at colleges, universities and government and business facilities across the country.
Denver immensely enjoyed the out-of-doors - backpacking, hiking and climbing. He loved to fish and was found with a rod and reel as often as a guitar, turning up every so often on fishing programs on TV. An avid golfer, Denver was a yearly guest at the Bob Hope Celebrity Classic and hosted his own annual Pro-Am Celebrity Golf Tournament in Tucson every January.
There is not much that Denver has not achieved. One of the world's best known and best-loved performers, he is a master communicator who can reach audiences regardless of geography, economics, politics and language. He was the true international figure dedicated to world peace and the elimination of hunger. Denver knew better than most that his gifts were gifts indeed. "Music does bring people together; it allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same."
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Remembering John | Reviewer: Terri Dacek | 11/17/12
Iam fifty years old. Iwent to my frist John Denver concert when I was thirteen and then saw him perform six moe times,berfore he tragically died. I truly miss him and his music. When I am feeling down I always put on his CD'sand they give me great comfort. One of my favorite songs is Perhaps Love. I had it played at my wedding and one of my memories of love will always be of John.
Guitars and Airplanes | Reviewer: C S Matthews | 7/23/11
I was shocked to learn that John had died from an aircraft accident. I started lisenting to John's music when I was in grade 9 and I took a lot of name calling and criticism for liking him and his music. It wasn't coolback then if you weren't crazy with Pink Floyd or other such bands. Two things john and I had in common was the fact that he loved acoustic guitars and airplanes. My entire family is is very musically talented and I grew up listening to my brothers and sisters singing together. I still love folk music to this day. I also loved everything there is about airplnes as well. I still remember my first ride with my cousin back in 1965 when I was only five years old. We went up in a green and white Cessna 172. Now I'm Fifty one and I've made flying my career. I have many thousands of hours flying as pilot in command and worked in many different flying jobs. Most of my hours here attained by teaching people how to fly. That is still my most rewarding accomplishment. I also flew sea planes up in the very very far north of Manitoba in a little town called Flin Flon. I still do a lot of flying as a copilot for many different captains around the area where I live. I can no longer fly as captain as I've lost my medical portion of my license because of a brush with brain cancer. Well I've prattled on long enough now but just to be clear, John's music is still my favourite of all time and it it is usually playing at all times when I'm home or travelling thanks to my Ipod which my kids had to load and teach me how to use.
Guitars and Airplanes | Reviewer: C S Matthews | 7/23/11
I was shocked to learn that John had died from an aircraft accident. I started lisenting to John's music when I was in grade 9 and I took a lot of name calling and criticism for liking him and his music. Two things john and I had in co0mmon was the fact that he loved acoustic guitars and airplanes. My entire family is is very musically talented and I grew up listening to my brothers and sisters singing together. I still love folk music to this day. I also loved everything there is about airplnes well. I still remember my first ride with my cousin back in 1965when I was only five years old. We wnet up in a green and white Cessna 172. Now that I'm Fifty one and I've made flying my career. I have many thousands of hours flying as pilot in command and worked in many different aviation jobs. Most of my hours here attained by teaching people how to fly. That is still my most rewarding accomplishment. I also flew sea planes up in the very very far north of Manitoba in a little town called Flin Flon. I still do alot of flying as a copilot for many different captains around the area where I live. I can no longer fly as captain as I've lost my medical portion of my license because of a brush with brain cancer. Well I've prattled on long enough now but just to be clear, John's music is still my favourite of all time and it it is usually playing at all times when I'm home or travelling thanks to my Ipod which my kids had to load and teach me how to use.
Jesse-he's there for you | Reviewer: Sparkles 67 | 7/2/11
If that really is you,Jesse-that is a beautiful & touching thing you write.I remember when you were a baby & how much JD constantly told anyone who would listen how much he loved you.I just know he is looking down on you and is very proud of you.It was wonderful to see you with Zach & Anna Kate at the Colo Hall of Fame.Stay calm darling - you are your father's girl and he had courage & determination to get thru' the bad stuff & survive.You can do it too.You ARE your dad's little girl.And you're half Australian! That is a winning combination! We Aussies are battlers! God Bless you darling-we know John is looking down & is proud of you.
I Loved and Lost | Reviewer: Randy | 4/24/11
In John Early days, I had to be the Biggest Fan of Johns. His Nature Songs, and Songs of Love, hit me Jest as I was In Love and Newly Married. I went to his concerts under the Stars. That was the way to experience Johns Music. Later albums, when John went more Country,Lost Anne and Became More Sucessful Moneywise. I lost most intrest, but was Floored,at word of his passing.I'm truly Blessed in the knowing him.
Season's Suite | Reviewer: Sandy (Batker) Swaney | 10/12/10
John Denver came into my life just in time to "save" me from being alone. I first "met" him on a TV special "Bighorn". I saw him & he had my 16 year old heart. He was, for sure, my first true love. I hung on his every word. Then, my mom got cancer & wasn't going to survive. She was gone in 6 months. And if it weren't for John's music giving me a reason to live & something to focus on, my lonliness might have been more than I could have borne. My dad bought me a guitar & a Denver songbook. I taught myself how to play chords, then learned how to play all of his songs. My dad bought me every album of his & I nearly wore the grooves off of each record. The one that took me through my mom's death was on his Rocky Mountain High album, called Season's Suite. There was an instrumental that soothed me & took my mind off of my pain & lonliness. That song was part of a set of songs that celebrated the seasons in John Denver style. I think I wore that song completely off the record! You could even see where that spot was played more often than any other spot on the record. Of course, I was devastated when I found out that John was married...but, just like a teenager, I was quick to forgive. He was my only love until I met my husband, 2 years later (who looks nothing like John). And when I heard that John walked this earth no more, I cried. I cried for not just my loss, but for everyone who ever leaned upon his music to take them to a place of peace & comfort. And I cried for having never had the chance to meet him in person. And now, as I look at the 13th anniversary of his passing, I still miss him. He was such a part of me, as no person ever was. I even dyed & cut my hair, and bought those round granny glasses, wanting so much to be a part of who he was. I still have a scrapbook of clippings I got from every place I could find (people even sent me stuff). And I still have that guitar, waiting for me to start getting serious about playing it again. And some day soon, I will. John, I miss you more than words could ever say. <*)))><
i love you more daddy i need you so badly | Reviewer: jesse belle denver | 6/14/10
hi daddy i love you more can you help me calm down i need you sharing i love your music and song lyrics in my folder i will your music and song lyrics, i love you john denver's little girl forever and evermore, i like your singing writing song music and song lyrics i am create all your song back in your way back years, i love you more,love jessebelle
What Friends We Could've Been | Reviewer: Justin | 3/12/08
John Denver is my all time favorite artist. Not only was he talented as a singer/songwriter/guitarist, he was such a healthy influence on all of humanity. He cared deeply about the environment, he helped people and his music saved people. I've read so much about him and I think "Wow, he and I would have gotten along famously". I listen to his music every day, it eases my mind and my heart. So tragically he was called home at 53...but his music and his spirit will always be here.
Wheb I think of you I always look to the sky | Reviewer: Cara | 7/4/07
John entered my life when I was 10 years old -- a gangly girl with short fingers trying to learn to play my acoustic. He was a long-time friend of my music teacher and visited often in the years to come. Finally, he taught me Rocky Mountain High. That was "it" for me; John had hooked me very sweetly. I started taing an active interest in his causes -- not just for animals and their habitat -- but also those for humanity. He always told me they're linked in a circle; that one cannot surivive without the other. He said they must be "balanced" and we must work really hard toward that goal. John, I see you in everything that flies -- I know you're still with me. Even at Pacific Grove, I feel your peace. I miss you always and say to you day after day thank you for all you taught me through your determination, undying spirit, soul and the ever-so-soft love we shared. I still cannot keep from crying when I hear you playing "Matthew"; but then I look up and see the hawk sitting on the telephone pole and I smile. You're flying again.
Farewell John. You will be missed. | Reviewer: MattInVegas | 9/4/04
Singer-songwriter. Born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., on December 31, 1943, in Roswell, New Mexico, to parents Henry John and Erma. As a teenager, Denver received his first guitar, a 1910 Gibson acoustic, as a gift from his grandmother. He attended the Texas Technical University from 1961-1964, but dropped out before completing his studies. In 1965, after traveling to New York City and successfully auditioning for the Chad Mitchell Trio, he began performing with the group until 1968.
Meanwhile, the folk-pop group Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a song he'd written, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and its success gave Denver a higher profile in the music industry. John decided to change his last name to Denver-partly in honor of the city and surrounding Rocky Mountains that he treasured, and partly due to his clean-living image. He signed with Mercury RCA Records in 1969 and released his first single, "Rhymes and Reasons." In the next two years, he released four moderately successful albums, including Take Me to Tomorrow (1970) and Aerie (1971).
With his wholesome good looks and down-to-earth appeal, Denver was considered the golden boy of folk music. Soon he was playing to sold-out crowds in stadiums across the country. The most successful albums of his career included Poems, Prayers, and Promises (1971), which featured the hit "Take Me Home, Country Roads"; Rocky Mountain High (1972), and Back Home Again (1974) featuring the title track, "Annie's Song," (Which he wrote for his First Wife, Annie.) and "Thank God I'm A Country Boy."
In 1977, Denver made his film debut in Oh, God!, co-starring George Burns. Even though the film was a minor box-office hit, Denver's acting career was thereafter limited to television until 1997, when he starred in Craig Clyde's outdoor adventure film Walking Thunder. John Denver and the Muppets (1980), The Christmas Gift (1986), and Higher Ground (1988) are among the numerous television specials in which he either hosted or starred. His final film was titled “Foxfire”.
As a renowned environmentalist and humanitarian, Denver's membership in many organizations included the National Space Institute, the Cousteau Society, Friends of the Earth, Save the Children Foundation, and the European Space Agency. In 1976, he co-founded the Windstar Foundation, a non-profit wildlife preservation agency. In addition to founding the World Hunger Project in 1977, he was personally appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the commission on World and Domestic Hunger. He became a chair member of the National UNICEF Day in 1984. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan presented Denver with the Presidential World Without Hunger Award. That same year, he won an additional six awards for Rocky Mountain Reunion, his documentary about endangered species. In 1993, he won the Albert Schweitzer Music Award for humanitarian efforts.
Among numerous awards and recognition for his musical achievements, he received the Top Male Recording Artist Award from Record World magazine for 1974-75. Also in 1975, he was named the Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year.
In 1967, Denver married Anne Marie Martell, a psychotherapist. Together they had two children, Zachary and Anna Kate, before their divorce in 1983. Denver was married to Cassandra Delaney from 1988 to 1991. Together they had one child, Jesse Bell.
A longtime aviator, Denver died on October 12, 1997 when the Experimental plane that he was piloting went down over Monterey Bay, California, killing him instantly.
Farewell John. You will be missed.
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