Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. was born on December 31, 1943, in Roswell, New Mexico. His father, Henry Deutschendorf, Sr., was an Air Force officer and flight instructor. The family moved many times around the American southwest while Denver was growing up. His grandmother gave him a 1910 Gibson guitar when he was a teenager, and by the time he was in college, he played well enough to perform in local clubs. He changed his last name to Denver, after his favorite city, and in 1964 dropped out of Texas Tech University and moved to Los Angeles to join the folk singing group, “The Chad Mitchell Trio.” In 1969, he left the group to pursue a solo career and released his first LP, “Rhymes and Reasons.”
His first album wasn’t a hit but one of the songs in it, “Leaving On A jet Plane,” was a smash two years later for Peter, Paul and Mary. In 1972, he had a big hit with the single, “Take Me Home, Country Road”, which reached number 2 on the charts. For the next four years, one hit followed another, and John Denver became a major American presence. In 1975, he was recognized as the Country Music Association “Entertainer of The Year.” In 1977, he co-founded The Hunger Project, on whose board he served for many years.
Although he continued to record with some success, his popularity waned in the 1980s whereupon he turned his attentions to more humanitarian work. He worked on conservation projects and helped to create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. In 1994, he published his autobiography, “Take Me Home” and in 1996, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
John Denver died on October 12, 1997 when an aircraft he was piloting ran out of fuel off the coast at Pacific Grove, California. His musical legacy is immortal, and he leaves a son and a daughter and many, many adoring fans.
What are some of YOUR favorite John Denver tunes?