Biography of John Denver - Country Folk Singer and Songwriter
Henry John Deutschendorf, popularly known as John Denver, was a singer and songwriter of the 1970s. 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.
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 loyal 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 John 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 Billboard Charts to up to number two.
In 1972, Rocky Mountain High became one of the Top Ten Albums. "Sunshine on my shoulders," "Annies' 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 TV show. His "Rocky Mountain Christmas Special" program was top-rated. 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 World 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 program, "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 helped the poor and the hungry. He also supported the 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. President Jimmy Carter appointed him 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 12, 1997, John Denver died in a Plane Crash. Even after his death, John Denver received many awards.
On September 24, 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.
© 2013 Nithya Venkat