Biografías

John Denver The American Golden Boy

October 13th 1997 …….John Denver passed away his plane chrashed in the Monterey Bay in California.

This is what we listened from news, early morning the legendary John Denver died the day before and people couldn´t believe it, he was an extraordinary pilot everyone knew that.

Denver’s manager told Peter Castro of People , reflecting on Denver’s influence. “If you give Elvis the ’50s and the Beatles the ’60s, I think you’ve got to give John Denver the ’70s.” 

But who was John Denver? Why still is well remembered and honored his memory?

THE BEGINNINGS:

Henry John Deutschendorf Jr (his real name) was born on December 31, 1943, he was influenced since he was a kid from everything and everyone during his Young life, raising to the popularity like a singer and composer. His father was an Air Force test pilot, the family traveled everywhere because of the father´s job (even outside of US), John was born in a very small town in the military town of Roswell, New Mexico. The relationship between a military father and an openly minded kid was not easy, chronicles mentioned “Dutch,” nickname’s father realtionship wasn´t good, his father was  very hard-drinking and John clashed with it he even tried to run away. But on the other side (John mentioned all the time) he had an amaizing relationship with his granny who lived in a farm in Oklahoma, there during vacations the small kid started to listened by the first time country music, he loved to be there he felt opened and free (years later he will write these emotions in a song). When he was around 10 years old, his other grandmother gave him and inestimable gift an antique Gibson guitar, he loved it and will be very important in his musical future life.

In 1957 the family settled in Fort Worth, Texas; Denver attended Texas Tech University, he started with architecture studies but in those years he started and sang also in a folk-music group called the Alpine Trio. 

It was 1964 when John dropped out the architecture studies (you can imagine father’s reaction), but John felt his real vocation was music. We are at the beginning of early 60’s and Folk Music is going terrific with people like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and even The Beatles, so he moved to Los Angeles,  making up the stage name John Denver, this name was inspired by the love and attraction to the mountainous West, mainly in Denver Colorado. He began performing at nightclubs and signed on as lead vocalist for a group called the Back Porch Majority. In 1965 he scored a breakthrough when he replaced Chad Mitchell as vocalist, guitarist, and banjoist for the Chad Mitchell Trio, a prime attraction on college campuses and in folk-oriented coffeehouses. Denver bested some 250 other performers who auditioned for the job. 

John Denver worked hard those years and soon he started  to write his own songs, those were the years of Hippie´s Movementand many other revolutions including the Vietnam War´s years. Even John  was critical of Republican presidents (Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan), Denver worked effectively with leaders of both parties. The group performed in clubs and college campus, during a performing with at a college in Minnesota, Denver met sophomore beautiful blue eyes girl Annie Martell; this will be determinant in John’s life, the two were married the following year, Annie will be the woman of his life, during their marriage adopted two children. 1968 year will very important too, John will realised a solo album titled Rhymes and Reasons, (a cult album) The band was disbanded and John was working like songwriter. The album included the “Ballad of Richard Nixon,” and another song about Vice President Spiro Agnew; but it will be a very special song that until now is being used even in pictures and commercials it was “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” a memorable and beautiful song Denver wrote in a single evening after he locked himself in his room, as he later recalled, with a pound of salami and a six-pack of beer (mentioned by himself in different concerts). It was originally titled “Babe, I Hate to Go.” What is this song about?, well it is about of a ominous separation of two lovers striking a chord at the height of the Vietnam War. Another very important comment here is that the song was recorded by Folk superstars Peter, Paul & Mary becoming a tremendous pop hit. So the young couple’s finances were boosted, and moved to Aspen Colorado. 

RCA label signed him John keep on writing on folk and country songs. The real success and meteoric rising will come with a song co-written with a couple of musicians and singers Bill and Taffy Danoff, The song “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” These two people will had a very close relationship with John making several contributions in so on songs, (even the couple had an amazing success with the Starland Vocal Band and the song Afternoon Delight, early 1976). So “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” will make John Denver a superstar, many veterans of Vietnam War still remember the beautiful song that maybe gave some peace and hope. This song was translated to many other laguages, and sang by many artists all over the world, we know it is an american country song, with country rythm eventough it is performance on and on again. Here it is the amazing “Take me Home Country Roads”

With his wholesome good looks and down-to-earth appeal, Denver was considered the golden boy of folk music. Annie Denver was quoted as saying in the Denver Post after Denver’s death. “It was a part of him that he wasn’t very ego-attached to. The man was driven to write songs. The music came out of a very deep place. And oftentimes, out of that deepness, John felt very alone. If you listen to his songs, there’s a lot of loneliness there.” In my opinion John became a poet and had the talent to make music with his poetry.

WAY TO THE TOP:

The way to the top goes on and many other very success songs will come, including “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” the song is a very country song, was not a Denver’s song but raise a number one in Billboard, and special recognition had “Annie’s Song” this also beautiful song was dedicated to his wife and reportedly written in ten minutes on a Colorado ski lift, things with Annie were not coming well,his marriage will start to collapse years later, success in the life of John came in an spiral that could no be stopped, suddenly John was required all over the country in concerts and performances, and so far places like Australia demanded the presence of John, loneliness and not being with her adorable Annie and his family will demanded a very high bill payment. Some other hits like  “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” and “Some Days Are Diamonds.” Perhaps the most memorable, at least for residents of his home state, was the Colorado ode “Rocky Mountain High,” which praised “the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake” and wrapped up the back-to-nature philosophies of the 1960s counterculture in a universally appealing package. Colorado governor John Vanderhoof named Denver the state’s poet laureate in 1974. Denver’s songs were equally popular among pop and country audiences, and Denver took home the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1975. John Denver could appeared with pop and Rock superstars like Tom Jones, Tina Turner, Barry Manilow, The Carpenters, Mama Cass or legendary all time country superstars like Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson. Critical about John Denver wasn’t ever so good, for many his songs were too much sentimental, for some others over-sweet, and very simplistic for another. But real true is that John had the skills to make something even The Beatles couldn’t do…..To join the family together and follow his specials on tv, all of us remembered the Muppets’ Christmas Show and all the Christmas shows where grandmother, Mom and Dad and everyone were there watching his sparkling smile and his “granny” glasses, giving optimistic and maybe too much over-sweet but beautiful songs.
Denver responded mildly to such criticisms, telling People that “some of my songs are about very simple things in life. But those simple things are meaningful to me and have obviously meant something to people all over the world, even if it’s only in a karaoke bar.” And that’s true “one day after a training day in Texas we went to a karaoke bar and everybody was singing there “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” was amazing.  Indeed, Denver in the mid-1970s was arguably America’s most celebrated male entertainer. His 1973 Greatest Hits album remained on Billboard magazine’s chart of top album sellers for about three years. In 1975 and 1976, Denver won four American Music Awards—honors that measured the sentiments of music buyers rather than industry figures. Of his 24 albums released on the RCA label during his lifetime, 14 were eventually certified gold (for sales of 500,000 copies), and eight of those reached the platinum or million-seller mark. In 1977, Denver made his film debut in Oh, God!, costarring George Burns. Even though the film was a minor box-office hit, Denver’s acting career was thereafter limited to television until 1997, when he starred in Craig Clyde’s outdoor adventure film Walking Thunder. John Denver and the Muppets (1980), The Christmas Gift (1986) and Higher Ground (1988) are among the numerous television specials in which he either hosted or starred.

DECLINE AND LEGACY: 

We are in the 80’s John Denver is at the peak of the success, but his private life was a mess, Annie and John divorced and his father passed away, those events took him into a deeply depression, one day driving in Los Angeles’s coast started to think about all those situations and wrotte about them the result another beautiful song, and an epic poem “Perhaps Love” this time John will share scenario and performance with the Opera Superstar Placido Domingo , of course Mr. Placido had to be convinced to sign something wasn’t Classical Music and John changed his country fashion for tuxedos. The song will become another worldwide hit. 

Perhaps love is like a resting place
A shelter from the storm
It exists to give you comfort
It is there to keep you warm
And in those times of trouble
When you are most alone
The memory of love will bring you home
Perhaps love is like a window
Perhaps an open door
It invites you to come closer
It wants to show you more
And even if you lose yourself
And don’t know what to do
The memory of love will see you through
Oh, love to some is like a cloud
To some as strong as steel
For some a way of living
For some a way to feel
And some say love is holding on
And some say letting go
And some say love is everything
And some say they don’t know
Perhaps love is like the ocean
Full of conflict, full of pain
Like a fire when it’s cold outside
Or thunder when it rains
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you
And some say love is holding on
And some say letting go
And some say love is everything
And some say they don’t know
Perhaps love is like the ocean
Full of conflict, full of pain
Like a fire when it’s cold outside
Or thunder when it rains
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you

There will come another married in 1988 to young Australian actress Cassandra Delaney produced a daughter, Jesse Belle, but also ended in divorce. RCA contract was over, Denver was also troubled by his inability to get a major label recording contract; his songs at the end of 80’s were not successful John started to record with his own label Windstar. In the early 90’s things aren’t going well either. Twice in the early 1990s Denver was arrested on charges of driving drunk. John felt passion for flying, he had several planes. Denver’s father taught him to fly, and the experience helped bring about a reconciliation between father and son. He became an experienced pilot, flying his own planes in Colorado, on tour, and in California’s Monterey Peninsula area, where he rented a home in Carmel so that he could be near Delaney and Jesse Belle. It was there that he purchased a Long EZ aircraft from a local veterinarian in the summer of 1997. The plane model was classified as experimental, but it was well known among aviation enthusiasts, and Denver experienced no problems during lessons in Santa Maria, California.
On October 12, 1997, Denver played golf with friends and looked forward to an hour of flying his new aircraft over the ocean. Several practice takeoffs and landings went off uneventfully, but apparently drained one of the plane’s two fuel tanks. Late in the afternoon, onlookers saw Denver’s plane plummet into the ocean after what appeared to be an engine failure. The singer was probably killed instantly. Denver’s pilot’s license, due to his drunk-driving arrests, was missing the medical endorsement required to make it legal, and toxicology tests were run on his remains, but they came back negative. Denver is thought to have lost control of the plane while fumbling with a lever that shifted the engine’s fuel supply from one tank to the other. A strong outpouring of fan emotion followed his tragic death, and a musical featuring his songs, Almost Heaven , had its premiere in 2005. Since 70’s John started to work in philanthropic and humanitarian concerns as well as environmental issues (in a time nobody think about it)  So he founded the Windstar (or Windsong) label, which released the disco hit “Afternoon Delight,” recorded by Bill and Taffy Danoff as the Starland Vocal Band as I mentioned before. And look toward a future in which he would work to safeguard the wilderness that had inspired many of his best songs. He founded the nonprofit Windstar Foundation in 1976 and the World Hunger Project in 1977.

The latter enterprise got him appointed to the Commission on World and Domestic Hunger by President Jimmy Carter. Denver devoted much of his energy to political causes in the 1980s and 1990s. In addition to wilderness and wildlife preservation, he was active in support of world anti-hunger initiatives, the United Nations Children’s Fund and other projects aimed at improving the lives of children, and of peace groups and organizations opposed to the spread of nuclear weaponry. In 1987 he received the Presidential World Without Hunger Award from President Reagan. That was followed by an Albert Schweitzer Music Award for humanitarian activity in 1993, making Denver the first musician from outside the classical sphere to earn the award. Denver performances or record during the 1980s and early 1990s often served activist ends. He toured the Soviet Union and recorded a song, “Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For?),” with Russian vocalist Alexandre Gradsky, and in 1992 he became one of the first Western pop artists to tour in modern-day Communist China. Denver also gave a concert in the Soviet Union to benefit survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster, and his 1980 television special Rocky Mountain Reunion , dealing with species endangerment, won several awards. He also make important contributions with the legendary french ocean research Jacques Cousteau.

John Denver will be present in our lives in many ways, he lived struggled moments during three decades he was an amazing and sensible artista, was a visionary and a person that shared his compassion, love and optimism for a better world with all of us. 

 

 

Jaime Esteban

Nace en el DF era un pequeño cuando los Beatles se separan, este acontecimiento y la influencia de su padre marcaron su camino por el gusto de la música. Es ingeniero químico egresado de la UNAM. A la fecha ejerce su profesión, ha sido profesor de ciencias, aventurero y viajero incansable, lee con mucha regularidad y es un apasionado de la música, y desde luego The Beatles y el Rock.

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