Skip to main content

John Denver



John Denver

Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. December 31, 1943-October 12, 1997. Most will know of the tragic passing of John Denver at the age of 53. Denver was an experienced pilot but according to the investigation a poorly designed fuel switch in his experimental plane caused him to turn around in the cockpit and he lost control. His plane crashed into Monterey Bay near Pacific Grove, California.
Apart from being a gifted singer he played a very decent acoustic guitar and wrote some of the most memorable songs of the 1970’s. Known for is concern for ecology, his photography and his humanitarian works he also made inroads in international relations being one of the first U.S. artists to be welcome into post cold war U.S.S.R. as well as touring mainland China.

Babe I Hate to Go” written and performed by John Denver. If you don’t recognize this song title that’s no surprise, he was the only one to call it that when he first released it in December of 1966. His then producer/manager Milt Okun convinced Denver to change the name of the song.  John wrote the song while still a member of the Chad Mitchell Trio, he left them, and the song helped him launch his solo career. Actually it was the version by Peter, Paul and Mary that helped him get noticed as a song writer, he would not have his own hit song until 1971.
Leaving on a Jet Plane by Spanky and Our Gang, the first cover, released August 1967.
Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary, released September 1967. This was the trio’s last big hit song that went #1 in the US and Canada and #2 in the UK.
Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Chantal Kreviazuk, a beautifully done version from the Armageddon Movie Soundtrack (1998) one of the best movie soundtracks ever, not surprisingly the album reached #1 in Canada and the US.
Covered another forty odd times since the soundtrack came out and again as recently as June of this year for a total of 117 documented times. Covered by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Matt Munro and Brenda Lee.
John Denver has had at least 52 of his original songs covered to date, he himself would cover 95 songs.
While he did not a have hit anytime he did a cover song, he did a great job on any that I’ve listen too. Here is a song I recently blogged that was covered by Aretha Franklin. John of course had his own style and didn’t stray much from his straightforward delivery with his amazing voice.

People Get Ready” by John Denver released in 1997, the original of course written by Curtis Mayfield and recorded by the Impressions. Quite remarkable how different a song can be from artist to artist.
His first hit song as I mentioned was in 1971.
Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver, written by Taffy Nivert, Bill Danoff and John Denver. Released in May 1971 it would peak at #2 in the US and #5 in the UK.
Take Me Home, Country Roads” by Loretta Lynn, the first of seven covers in 1971 alone. Covered at least 140 times.
Country Road” by Toots and The Maytals in 1972.  One of my favorite Reggae groups turned this into a Jamaican tribute song.  
John Denver’s next hit would be “Sunshine on My Shoulders” written by John Denver, Dick Kniss and Mike Taylor originally release on an album in 1971. The song began a rebirth when released as a ‘B’ side to the single “I'd Rather Be a Cowboy (Lady's Chains)” in 1973. It went #1 in both Canada and the US, the song was inspired by a gray and dreary day at his home in Minnesota, the lyrics written entirely by Denver are simple and poignant. I’ve read it started to connect with people upon the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, it makes sense as a ray of hope began to ripple across much of the country and for that matter here in Canada as well.
A very lovely cover in 2008 by Carly Rae Jepsen.
Sunshine on My Shoulders by Barry Manilow with John Denver. The marvels of modern technology bring these two voices together and the last documented cover from 2014.
Denver, now a mega-star with soaring record sales would have another eight songs hit #1 on one chart or another over the next three years; "Back Home Again", "Sweet Surrender", "Thank God I'm a Country Boy", "I'm Sorry"/"Calypso", "Fly Away" (with Olivia Newton-John), "Looking for Space", "Like a Sad Song" and of course...

Annie's Song  written by John Denver, apparently in ten minutes while on a ski lift in Aspen. Many of you may know this is about his first wife Anne Martell Denver. I will argue one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Charting #1 again all over the place but this was his only chart topper in the UK.
Covered over 90 times but this one will never get any better than when sung by John Denver.

Click here for a playlist of all the videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5ZqJzW8dSI&list=PLYaGBOpoZ48wFPBtu8fqlLasoWtSDwUwX

Music Trivia: Who other than Stephen Foster has two official state songs in the US? John is the only other artist to have written or co-written two state songs, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”  added by West Virginia in 2014, the other being Colorado adding  "Rocky Mountain High" in 2007.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs

Nothing quite grabs the attention more than a list of the greatest this or that, so at 85 posts about cover songs I thought it about time to get to it. As I advised with my other 'Greatest' posts we all have our favorites so anytime there is a list, something or someone 'great' gets left off. And the debate ensues, why is this and that at #11 not #4 and vise versa. My list therefore, shall be no different for it is not scientific but subjective and it is biased by my own tastes and exposure to music. Having said that it's hard for me to have missed many of the truly great cover songs of all time, indeed I think I've talked about quite a few:


"Respect" from the writer and original recording Otis Redding and a cover she made her own, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. More about the song and Aretha in these posts. Before I get to some cover's I've not mentioned, here are more songs from my previous issues that are …

Nina Simone

Central Park Blues” (1958) written by Nina Simone. From her debut album 'Little Girl Blue'. While best remembered for her vocal talents, Nina shows off her considerable chops at the piano.


On the same album her cover of  "I Loves You Porgy" from the opera 'Porgy and Bess' (George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin). This would be her highest ranking hit on Billboard at #18 on the Pop chart and #5 on the R&B. The video clip shows how brilliant she was and how effortless her piano playing appears, she was quite remarkable.

Born in North Carolina, Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003) she was a student at the Juilliard School of Music. She changed her name when she was performing in nightclubs in Atlantic City, which is when she started to add vocals to her piano playing. She was really only interested in classical music and studies, so performing using pop music and later recording (income) was used to pursue just that.

My Baby Just Cares fo…

Happy Independence Day (updated)

Happy Independence Day/4th of July to our American Cousins! Seems appropriate we ( July 1, in Canada) have our birthdays so close together. And a hello to my new readers from blogarama.com!



When it comes to cover songs, I will never run out of blog ideas from the south, particularly when it comes to the roots of the blues, country and rock. Today I wanted to find some songs about the USA that focus on a Patriotic theme (not hard to find) but also have been a) covered by other artists and b) some that are not necessarily as 'pro' or at least painting a not so positive light on an aspect of American society and c) have been perhaps mis-interpreted by some.
Born in the U.S.A.” written by Bruce Springsteen from the album of the same name released in June 1984. My youngest sister and I went to see Bruce at the CNE stadium during this tour in July 1985, as always with Bruce, a great show. I have attached a link that includes lyrics, so you can see that this song is not very compl…