"Poems, Prayers & Promises"(featuring "The Box") by John Denver
A Change of Direction
Believe it or not I originally intended to write this hub about "Pandora's Box" but I found there was already other hubs about that and I couldn't really write anything new. While I was thinking about it, a song/poem "The Box" by John Denver kept invading my thoughts. I hadn't heard it for many years but it had quite an effect on me in my youth, so I decided to write this article about it and John Denver instead. I hope you find this interesting.
John Denver as most remember him.
Country-folk singer/songwriter John Denver ( Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.) was one of the most popular recording artists of the 1970s. His gentle, environmentally conscious music established him among the most loved entertainers of his era. His appeal extended to fans of all ages and backgrounds, and led to parallel careers as both an actor and a humanitarian.
His first Greatest Hits package released in 1973 is now a 9 times platinum album and he has sold over 32.5 million albums and he remains 29th in the all time best selling list of solo artists in history. Then in 1975 he released the wonderful album "Windsong". Many of the songs on this album reflected his love of nature and the environment.
He wrote the music score for movies such as "Sunshine" and starred alongside George Burns in the popular 1977 comedy movie "Oh God!" He was even proclaimed state 'poet laureate' by the governor of Colorado.
During the 1980s John Denver's popularity began to wane as he began to focus more toward humanitarian work, primarily ecological concerns and space exploration. As part of John's environmental campaigning, he met Jacques Cousteau, who took him on many of his missions to map marine wildlife as part of the WWF conservation programmes. He toured Russia and China, and in 1987 performed in Chernobyl in the wake of that city's nuclear disaster.
Apparently every time he played a concert in a non English speaking country, John would learn Annie's Song in the language of the country he sang it in. He even performed it in Welsh during a concert in Cardiff. Now THAT'S impressive.
A low point in his life came in 1993 when he was arrested for drunk-driving and this seemed to attract more publicity than his music and humanitarian work. Then in 1994, he published his autobiography called "Take Me Home". Tragedy struck at the age of 53, when on October 12, 1997, John Denver's experimental aircraft suddenly crashed, killing him instantly.
Poems, Prayers, and Promises
John Denver had already had three previous albums as a solo artist without success (other than with his version of Peter, Paul, and Mary's song "Leaving On a Jet Plane" in 1969) before he released "Poems, Prayers, and Promises" in 1971. This album contained the songs "Sunshine On My Shoulders" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads" which were to become smash hits and stamp his name as one of the most popular country/folk singers of all time.
Other songs Denver did cover versions of on this album included The Beatles' "Let It Be" and James Taylor's "Fire and Rain". The last of the twelve tracks on this album was a poem called "The Box", and this little known track had a much more profound effect on me than any of the other million sellers.
"Poems, Prayers, and Promises" was the first of a number of John Denver albums that found their way into my record collection and have remained prized possessions.
by Kendrew Lascelles, recorded by John Denver
Once upon a time, in the land of Hushabye,
Round about the wondrous days of yore.
They came across a sort of box,
bound up with chains and locked with locks,
And labeled "Kindly Do Not Touch, It's War."
A decree was issued round about all with a flourish and a shout,
and a gaily colored mascot tripping lightly on the fore,
"Don't fiddle with this box, or break the chains, or pick the locks,
And Please... don't ever play about with war."
Well, the children understood, children happen to be good,
and they were just as good around the time of yore.
They didn't try to pick the locks, or break into that deadly box,
they never tried to play about with war.
Mommies didn't either, Sisters, Aunts, Grannies neither,
'cause they were quiet and sweet and pretty in those wondrous days of yore.
Well... very much the same as now, and not the ones to blame somehow,
for opening up that deadly box of war.
But someone did... someone battered in the lid,
and spilled the insides out across the floor.
A sort of bouncy bumpy ball,
with flags and all the tears and horror that goes with war.
It bounced right out and went bashing all about,
and bumping into everything in store.
And what was sad and most unfair is that it didn't really seem to care,
much who it bumped, or why, or what, or for.
It bumped the children mainly, and I'll tell you this quite plainly,
It bumps them everyday... and more... and more,
and leaves them dead and burned and dying, thousands of them sick and crying,
cause when it bumps... it's really very sore.
Now there's a way to stop the ball, it isn't difficult at all,
all it takes is wisdom.
Well, that's the way it all appears,
cause it's been bouncing round for years and years
in spite of all the wisdom wizzed since those wondrous days of yore.
And the time they came upon The Box,
bound up with chains and locked with locks...
and labeled "Kindly Do Not Touch, It's War."
Favorite Songs of Others Performed by John Denver
Lennon and McCartney
When I'm 64 (on Rhymes and Reasons)
Love of the Common People (on Rhymes and Reasons)
Eleanor Rigby (on Whose Garden Was This)
Golden Slumbers (on Whose Garden Was This)
Let It Be (on Poems, Prayers and Promises)
Junk <by Paul McCartney> (on Poems, Prayers and Promises)
Mother Nature's Son (on Rocky Mountain High)
Fire and Rain (on Poems, Prayers and Promises).
Carolina In My Mind (on Take Me To Tomorrow)
John also sang the James Taylor songs "Shower The People", "Sweet Baby James", and "Handyman" in concert but didn't record them.
Peter, Paul, and Mary
Leaving On A Jet Plane(on Rhymes and Reasons)
- Although Peter, Paul, and Mary were first to record this world-wide hit song, the following is worth noting: In 1969, John Denver left The Mitchell Trio and embarked on a solo career and released his first album "Rhymes and Reasons". Two years before this, John had made a self-produced demo recording of songs he played at his concerts. He included in the demo a song called "Babe I Hate to Go". He made several copies and gave them out as Christmas presents.
Milt Okun, who produced records for the high-profile folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary, had become Denver's producer as well. Okun brought the unreleased song, as John Denver was not yet a big name, changed the name to "Leaving On A Jetplane" and gave it to Peter, Paul and Mary to record.Their version of the song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100.