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Reflections On The Life Of John Denver
The Day The Music Died
October 12, the day that John Denver took his last airplane ride in 1997. Although I had never met him, I was devastated by his death. To me this was the day the music died. John Denver was a hero to me. No, he wasn't perfect, he fought his demons just like the rest of us, but I admired the man, the singer songwriter and poet that he was. As a humanitarian, he stood for love, freedom, the environment brotherhood, peace and ending world hunger. These passions were heard in his songs as he sang about the things that mattered most to him. He had a voice and he used it. Nature spoke to him and his talent enabled him to turn nature's messages in to beautiful, meaningful songs that spoke to my heart, reaching me on a soul level. He wrote sentiments that I was thinking and feeling and wished these words had come from me and my connection to nature. His songs were about how I felt and they were so tailor-made, I thought he sang them just for me. I used to dream of meeting him one day. I would hang around Aspen in hopes of seeing him. I had heard that sometimes he could be seen walking down the road with his guitar slung over his back.
Misunderstood, But Connected
I loved him in spite of those around me who seemed to get a thrill out of putting him down. Like me, he was misunderstood. He wasn't glamorous or cool, he was just John Denver. It baffled me how people weren't moved by his poetry and message. Around 1977, on a Sunday afternoon, I made my ex-husband sit down and listen to the entire album of John Denver's Greatest hits while following along with the words. Whether this changed his mind or not, I don't know since he ws a man of few words.I think he did not want to admit that he was moved by John Denver's music but somehow it wasn't cool to say so. He did attend a concert in the round with me in San Francisco which was fabulous. J. D. never skimped on the size of his band while touring. He had a full orchestra and the arrangements were pure genius. I looked around at the people who were there and I saw people of all ages. His music crossed generations and is still relevant today.
The second time I saw him in concert was at the infamous Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. I remember sitting in the warm night air listening to John sing a song about being parted from his love and wondering if she was looking at the same moon he was.
I learned there were other people who felt just the way I did.They said J.D. sang his songs to them. How can one man reflect the feelings of thousands of people he never met in such an intimate way, that they all thought he was singing just to them? This is genius at it's finest. To connect with hearts on such a deep level with a multitude of people. What a gift he had.
What One Man Can Do
On this fateful day in 1997, I mourned him like he was a personal friend or family member. I owned 26 of his cd's and played all them daily. It' was all I listened to for a while and I always cried when I heard his sweet, clear voice that was now silenced. Yes, his music lives on but the man does not. It's not just about the music, it's also about the man John Denver was. Before it became popular for celebrities to care about the world and her inhabitants, John Denver co-founded the world hunger project in 1977. Also he was a champion of the environment. Proceeds from his song, Calypso were donated to the environmentalist activist, Jacques Cousteau which was written on the very boat Calypso. He also founded The heart of The Windstar Foundation which "was to be about collaboration, about peace, about you and me creating a brotherhood and a sisterhood of stewardship and friendship, creating a global family of connectedness. Realizing the beauty within each other, seen and unseen, just in the knowing that we were family." (The Windstar Foundation). John was ahead of his time. Maybe he will come back in the future to finish what he started.
He died in a plane crash while flying an experimental plane. He was an excellent pilot, just like his father who taught him, but there seemed to be a problem with switching over the gas tanks. John Denver ran out of fuel in his plane flying over Monterey Bay, doing something he loved. His was a life well lived.
I still hope to someday meet him on a soul level. I still miss his voice in the world.