Remembering John Denver


For someone so unreservedly gentle, John Denver could sure pack a wallop. His power wasn't something that smacked you in the kisser but thumped your heart with sureness. He retained much of the social cause oriented fire of his '60s folk singer days but found a way to marry his messages to a seductive philosophy and hugely charming musical character. From 1971, when the hits started rolling in, onwards, Denver and his music became part of the fabric of American culture, with the straw haired, bespectacled musician starring in multiple TV shows, feature films, regular touring and PBS specials, as well as living continuously on radio.

"Thank God I'm A Country Boy," "Fly Away, " "Annie's Song," "Poems, Prayers and Promises," "Rocky Mountain High" and numerous others are songs sung by young and old, providing meaning and joy to both groups, though often for entirely different reasons – a fact that speaks to the quality and sophistication of his compositions. It was Denver that God (in the form of George Burns) chose to speak to in the '70s, and you'd have been hard pressed to find someone who argued with the Lord's decision. He brought real roots to the pop realm, and was a downright fine picker in his own right. He both loaned his songs to others (Peter, Paul and Mary are still getting checks for their version of "Leaving On A Jet Plane") and had a nose for great talent himself (his version of John Prine's "Prisoners" on Rocky Mountain High rivals or betters the original), and he used his success to aid multiple humanitarian efforts around the world throughout his life. He was 64 years old when a plane he was piloting alone went down near Pacific Grove, CA on October 12, 1997. He is missed, both for his spirit and his music, and we pause to remember him this afternoon.

Here's "Rocky Mountain High" on Top of the Pops in 1972.

Denver does a Buddy Holly medley with David "Rock On" Essex in 1973.

Pardon the hazy footage and foreign text overlay. It's worth fighting through to see Denver pick "Rocky Top" with Johnny Cash, Roger Miller and Glen Campbell (on wicked banjo), followed by Denver talking about his father's influence on his songs and "You Done Stomped On My Heart" and a bit of John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind." Watching this it's not hard to imagine John Denver onstage with Yonder or Leftover Salmon.

Denver was a regular on The Muppet Show, and here he is doing "Poems, Prayers and Promises" around a campfire with Kermit and gang. He does, however, alter the original lyric, "While all my friends and my old lady sit and pass the pipe around." Decorum is never a bad call.


Johnny Carson interviews Denver for a few minutes before a sweet rendition of "Follow Me" from a 1974 episode of The Tonight Show, which Denver hosted a number of times during that decade as a fill-in for Carson.

Lastly, we bring you A Gift of Song – A Concert For Unicef, hosted by a hysterically earnest David Frost. The first clip is the red carpet introduction, where Denver in his zippered sweatshirt seems a little out of step with all the fur and silk high fashion on the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, etc. It's a nifty snapshot of the late '70s, and the second clip has Denver performing a few tunes.

[Published on: 10/12/08]

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canoftunapudding Sun 10/12/2008 04:11PM
Show -6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
happydestiny starstarstarstarstar Sun 10/12/2008 04:17PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


hey tuna, I bet JD had more talent in his left butt cheek than you do in your entire body

jalew Sun 10/12/2008 04:26PM
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oh, jambase. how you amuse me. bonghits and J.D. huh? nice.

vtotheitothenny starstarstar Sun 10/12/2008 04:28PM
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manbearpig, i think tuna was simply making reference to a great, great movie. think about it. or maybe he really does hate denver...

happydestiny Sun 10/12/2008 04:46PM
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^^^ good call. sorry tuna

Flat5 Sun 10/12/2008 05:00PM
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nice Rocky Top! thanks Jambase!

gmoo Sun 10/12/2008 05:06PM
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John Denver has one of the true great voices, imho. It takes me there.

iAMuANDwhatIseeISme starstarstarstarstar Sun 10/12/2008 06:17PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


"....and you know who won that award?!?! mr. sunshine on my goddamn shoulders john denver!!!"

adamjfreed Sun 10/12/2008 07:59PM
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what movie is that. it's on the tip of my toungue

gregboyer Sun 10/12/2008 08:09PM
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JD was more than a little corny sometimes but he did write both the West Virginia and Colorado theme songs.

deadpig79 Mon 10/13/2008 08:35AM
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it was super troopers adam

heynowBeKynd starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 09:04AM
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rest in peace, brother. nothing like listening to rocky mountain high while flying into or driving around CO. he had a beautiful voice, for sure...thanks for the vids jambase.

cody_420 Mon 10/13/2008 09:12AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
veggedout starstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 06:06PM
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Well think of how it would all be if John Denver were alive today. He would be on the festival scene, like playing along with bands like Yonder or Leftover Salmon, He might go on his tour. A tragic way to end it from a hobby of flying small planes!

Mr_McDankenstein Tue 10/14/2008 07:16AM
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No, it's Dumb and Dumber.

"Harry: I expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this.

Lloyd: I was thinking the same thing. That John Denver's full of shit, man. "

brendan3 starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/14/2008 07:52AM
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whoever said bong hits and john denver is a genious, i can't imagine a sweeter way to waste away a beautiful fall afternoon. JD gave the world some incredibly moving music, he could bring tears to your eyes with at least a half dozen of his tunes. Brings back old memories of fires in the fire place and mom and dad and the family on the couch, thanks jambse and john denver

Radio Ryan starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/14/2008 05:21PM
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Radio Ryan

My first and greatest exposure to John Denver was the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album. I've heard it every year since I was born. His voice is so pure and so honest, no one can argue against that!

Last night while randomly flipping channels (no cable!) I got to PBS who was doing the mandatory pledge drive, but they were playing a John Denver tribute. Yeah, he looked geeky, yeah, he didn't have a hard style or attitude, and he sure did have a great voice and musical ability... I know his music is something that will grow on me more and more over time. I used to resist Donovan, until I "got it" and I'll defend Donovan until my days are over. I truly think certain things one cannot appreciate until one gains a certain level in life, a certain amount of "experience points" until some things start to click. I used to dislike Bob Weir and Phish, too. Imagine that?