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Biography of John Denver - Country Folk Singer and Songwriter

Updated on August 17, 2016
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Henry John Deutschendorf popularly known as John Denver was a singer and songwriter of the 1970’s. His songs are evergreen and are popular even today.

John Denver was born on December 31, 1943, in Roswell, New Mexico. He was the son of Lt.Co. Henry John Deutschendorf and Erma Louise Swope.

Music was his first love. The guitar was his best friend but his interests extended beyond music. He also loved painting and photography.

John Denver's music and songs were inspired by nature, personal experiences and his love for Colorado.

This article is an insight into the life of John Denver.

John Denver's Early Life

John Denver’s father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, and his family was transferred to different places frequently. Due to this John Denver found it difficult to make friends or stay in a familiar place with known faces.

His maternal grandmother played a significant role in encouraging John Denver to learn music. At the age of eleven, she gifted John Denver with a guitar.

He took choir lessons and learned to play the guitar. When he was in Tucson Arizona, he sang in the choir for two years. During that time, his father was transferred to Montgomery, Alabama and from there he was again transferred to Foxworth, Texas.

The transfers were a harrowing experience for John Denver. He felt unsettled and lonely.

In Foxworth, Texas John Denver studied at Arlington Heights High School. He longed for Denver and wanted to get back to the place that he loved so much. In the third year of school, he borrowed his father’s car and made his escape to Denver.

His father brought him back to Foxworth to finish High School. He started playing in local clubs when he was in college.

He changed his name to John Denver from John Deutschendorf as suggested by Randy Sparks the founder of New Christ Minstrels.

John Denver went on to study architecture at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Musical Career

In 1963, he dropped out of University and moved to Los Angeles, California. In Los Angeles John Denver sang in many clubs and later on in 1965 he joined a club called The Mitchell Trio. He was with the club till 1969 after which he dropped out of the band and concentrated on singing as a solo artist.

He convinced people to let him play at various venues - schools, colleges, coffee houses, American Legion Hall. He offered to play for free. He garnered many steadfast fans who loved his songs through his self-promotion. This convinced the RCA records to work with him.

"Rhymes and Reasons" was the first album released for RCA. In 1970 Jhon Denver released two more records, “Take Me Tomorrow” and “Whose Garden Was This”. After this, Jerry Weintraub became his manager and was responsible for John Denver’s road to success.

After a few years, John Denver stopped working with Jerry Weintraub because he lost interest in promoting John Denver and was busy with other projects.

John Denver's Achievements

John Denver released “Poems, Prayers and Promises” in 1971. This album became a number one hit and became very popular. His song “Leaving on a Jet Plane” climbed the Bill Board Charts all the way to up to number two.

In 1972, Rocky Mountain High became one of the Top Ten Albums. “Sunshine on my shoulders”, “Annies’s Song”, “I’m Sorry”, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, and I’m Single” became No one songs.

“John Denver’s Greatest Hits”, “Back Home Again” and “Wind Song” became No one albums. He appeared in many TV shows and, later on, produced his own TV show. His “Rocky Mountain Christmas Special” program was very popular. He also appeared as a guest star in the “Muppet Show”.

His live concert “An Evening with John Denver” won the Emmy Award Outstanding Special Comedy-Variety or Music(ABC) for outstanding performance.

John Denver was a good actor; he acted in “Colorado Cattle Caper” and “Oh God”. He hosted the Grammy Awards five times. He was one of the founders of "The Hunger Project" and contributed to the organization in many ways.

He wrote the song “I want to live” as the theme song for President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on Word Hunger. John Denver also supported UNICEF.

In 1970 John Denver and his father reconciled. His father taught him how to fly. They co-hosted a TV programme “The Higher We Fly – The History of Flight”.

Role in Politics and Charity

In the mid-1970’s John Denver was actively involved in Politics. In 1976, he supported Jimmy Carter in his campaigns. He was the supporter of the Democratic Party and many charitable institutions that worked towards helping the poor and the hungry. He also supported African AIDS crisis.

He was a member of Friends of Earth, Save the Children Foundation and European Space Agency

In 1976, he co-founded the Windstar Foundation, a non-profit Wildlife Preservation Agency.

In 1977, he formed the World Hunger Project. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter on World Domestic Hunger Commission.

In 1987, he won six awards for “Rocky Mountain Reunion”, a documentary about endangered species.

In 1993, he won the Albert Schweitzer Music Award for his role in saving the environment and his contribution towards charity.

In 1984, he became a chair member of the National UNICEF Day.

Recognition After Death

On October 12th, 1997 John Denver died in a Plane Crash. Even after his death, John Denver received many awards.

On September 24th, 2007, friends of John Denver together with the Wind Star Foundation dedicated a bronze plaque at the place where John Denver’s Plane crashed.

In the year, 1997 John Denver recorded an album titled “All Aboard” that composed of railroad-themed songs. This album won a “Best Musical for Children Grammy” for him after his death.

On April 21, 2001, John Denver became inducted into the Colorado Hall of Fame.

John Denver's songs are popular even today across the world.

Sources

biography.com

abbaontv.com

notable biographies.com

lyricsfreaks.com

imdb.com

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    • Vellur profile image
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      Nithya Venkat 20 months ago from Dubai

      Sunshine625, thank you for your visit. Rocky Mountain High is one of my many favorite songs.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 20 months ago from Orlando, FL

      Rocky Mountain High is now stuck in my head! Thank you! :)

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      CrisSp Neil Diamond is truly gifted with the golden voice! Thank you for the many votes and share.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      John Denver's era is when we were actually listening to music. No props, no devices and equipment to adjust the tune because performers like him naturally performed with their gift... such beautiful voice and he writes his songs too.

      One of my favourites from him (even now) is "Perhaps Love".

      Good, delightful hub on JD. Up+++ and sharing plus posting his song on my Jukebox Page now.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      suzettenaples John Denver is talented and he mesmerized his fans with his songs. It is sad that he had to die that way. Thank you for your visit.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      John Denver is another favorite of mine. I have always loved his music and folk songs. He was so talented and died way too soon in that tragic plane crash. You did an excellent job on this write about him.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      RoadMonkey he is one of my favorites too, his music never dies.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 2 years ago

      I really loved John Denver's music. Such a loss!

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      lambservant it is a great loss to the world of music when he dies. Thank you for reading and sharing your views.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I got choked up reading this. I love John Denver. I went to a concert of his once and it was the most meaningful night of music I have ever experienced. I read his biography and was surprised that he was not exactly the tender hearted man he comes off as in his songs. However, we all have our issues, eh. I was so shocked when he died. A great loss to the world.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      Daisy Mariposa thank you for the return visit, John Denver's music is amazing.

      ChitrangadaSharan thank you for stopping by and reading.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great, informative hub about the life and songs of John Denver!

      I have heard his songs but not so much about him.

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Nithya,

      I returned to read your article another time, and to listen to some John Denver music.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      PegCole17 thank you, am glad you enjoyed. I never get tired of listening to John Denver!!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Vellur. I really enjoyed reading this bio of John Denver. He's one of my very favorite musical artists. I remember hearing his songs on the radio at the time they were on the pop charts. His message is beautiful and timely. Thanks for this great run down of his accomplishments and his life.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Jodah thank you, am glad you enjoyed.

      Sunshine625 yes it is really very sad and a great loss.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      An amazing artist that died way too young...

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wonderful hub Vellur. John Denver is one of my all time favourite singers/entertainers and was a wonderful person. You offered great information here. I have also written a hub about him mainly featuring his album 'Poems, Prayers and Promises' and the poem featured on it called 'The Box'. Thank you for writing this hub. It was a pleasure to read. Voted up.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      agvulpes it is a great tragedy when the music world lost him, thank you for stopping by.

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 4 years ago from Australia

      I have always been a big fan of John Denver and he is still very popular down here in Australia. It sure was a tragedy when we lost him.

      Thanks a lot for this trip down memory lane :)

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Thank you thost, his songs are evergreen.

    • thost profile image

      thost 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Very good article about John Denver. I will always love his songs.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Docmo, thank you. Yes, you are right will add some more, his songs are great. Thanks for the vote and share.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 4 years ago from UK

      Great bio, Nithya. I am a big fan of 'Take me home, Country Roads' - it is good to see his bio and how he got to be such a great balladeer. Thanks for the info... up/shared. You could've added some videos too to spruce this up.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Lady_E yes, you have put is so well - his legacy lives on. Thank you.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 4 years ago from London, UK

      Thanks Nithya, I listen to some Country Singers, but it's the first time I've heard of him and I am glad you included videos. Good on him to get involved in other things too for the sake of humanity.

      His legacy lives on.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      molometer John Denver's music lives on even today. Thank you for stopping by and for the share.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 4 years ago

      Hello Nithya,

      This was an interesting read and the music was lovely.

      I have listened to John Denver for many years but not recently.

      It was good to hear these great songs again.

      Voted up and sharing.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      creativelycc thank you. It was heart breaking when he died and such a sad way to go.

    • creativelycc profile image

      Carrie L. Cronkite 4 years ago from Maine

      Beautiful tribute to an amazing legend. I loved his music when I was in high school and am still saddened by his death. Thank you for the memories. The best to you!

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      midget38 it is very sad he had to die in an accident. Yes that song is great. Thank you.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      It's a pity about his accident...and his song I'm Leaving On A Jetplane so poignant. Thanks for sharing, Nithya.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      beingwell thank you for stopping by, he is very famous and his songs are evergreen.

    • beingwell profile image

      beingwell 4 years ago from Bangkok

      He's a very famous song-writer and singer. Heck, I don't recall his face; but I'm familiar with his songs. Sharing this one.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Koffeeklatch Gals thank you for stopping by and yes we lost a great musical artist, a great loss indeed.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I have always loved John Denver's music. It seems to me that I read somewhere that when he died he was still in love with Annie, even though they were either divorced or having problems. I have no idea if that's all true. We lost a great musical artist the day his plane went down. Up and awesome.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      DDE thank you for stopping by and reading. John Denver's songs are like dreams that never fade.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      John Denver was one of the best and reading this Hub made think about his songs too.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      billybuc yes, he was always happy with life and made sure he spread the happiness!! thank you.

      starstream thank you for stopping by, I enjoyed writing about John Denver.

      Jackie Lynnley you said it right, heaven is brighter! Am sure he is entertaining everyone in heaven too!! thank you.

      Gail Meyers thank you, it was a long time ago but his songs are still around!

      Eiddwen thank you for stopping by and reading. Have a great day.

      Jools99 thank you am glad you enjoyed this hub and who hasn't done that!!

      always exploring thank you and yes as you say he had a down-home voice.

      Sunshine625 thank you, his music is awesome and does bring on a smile.

      Ruchira that song is my favorite too!! Thank you stopping by.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      John Denver was a great inspiration to many singers. I love many of his songs ESP back home again is still hummed by me.

      Great informative hub, nithya.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Very interesting! I had no idea John Denver had a "real" name or what it was. I always liked his music. He sings feel good songs that guarantee a smile to who ever is listening. A fabulous tribute!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I really admired John Denver, he had a down-home voice which i loved. Thank you for sharing info. that i was unaware of..

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      You know, I really enjoyed this. I used to listen to JD a lot when I was in school. I had a friend who borrowed his albums from her brother and we used to sing out heads off in her bedroom listening to the songs.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Thank you so very much for this beautiful tribute to a wonderfully talented man.

      Eddy.

    • Gail Meyers profile image

      Gail Meyers 4 years ago from United States

      I have always liked some of John Denver's song, but it has been a long time since I heard any of them. So, thanks for sharing the videos! It was so when he died. I can't believe it was that long ago!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I was so shocked and sad the day this man died. He was loved by everyone and his music was for everyone. Our world is a little dimmer without him but I am sure Heaven is brighter. Great write. ^

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 4 years ago from Northern California

      I admired John Denver's ability to touch lives and use his talent to open hearts to our world unity on this beautiful planet. He was so gifted and presented his heart and soul to share the emotions of life. I send prayers to him. Thanks for doing all the research and writing about it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have always like John Denver. Such a pure, sweet voice, and he always seemed to be happy with life. Thanks for the information.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Daisy Mariposa thank you, he is so talented and a great human being.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Nithya,

      I've listened to the music of John Denver throughout the years, but I didn't know very much at all about his life.

      Thanks for publishing this well-researched, well-written article.