Ain't much an old country boy like me can't hack
It's early to rise, early in the sack
Thank God I'm a country boy
Well, a simple kind of life never did me no harm
A-raisin' me a family and working on the farm
My days are all filled with an easy country charm
Thank God I'm a country boy
— "Thank God I'm a Country Boy"
Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997), better known as John Denver, was an American singer-songwriter whose music was a mixture of pop, country, folk, western, and soft rock influences. He was also an occasional actor, and – later in life, inspired by his love of nature – a noted advocate for environmental and humanitarian issues. Among other distinctions, Denver was the featured guest-star of more Muppets productions than any other performer, with two prime-time specials (and accompanying soundtrack albums) on top of his appearance on The Muppet Show in 1979.
One of the best-selling US artists of The '70s, Denver's success waned somewhat after the decade's end but he retained a solid fanbase. He also earned the respect of Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister), among others, by confounding expectations during his testimony at the PRMC hearings in 1985. The committee obviously expected Denver to side with them, viewing him as a non-rebellious "safe" artist with a very wholesome image and non-threatening persona and music. Denver, very politely but nevertheless forcefully, rebuked the committee's attempts to censor music, stood up for artistic freedom and pointed out that his own song, "Rocky Mountain High" (about his love of nature and the "high" he got from being outdoors in the stunning Rocky Mountains), had in fact been banned on certain radio stations for its supposed endorsement of drug use.
Denver's personal life was darker than his music; he was married and divorced twice, and came close to choking his first wife during their breakup but fortunately came to his senses before any harm was done. He also had issues with alcohol in The '90s, twice being arrested for driving under the influence. Denver continued to write, record and perform the music he loved until his death at age 53, when he crashed his modified kit-built airplane into California's Monterey Bay on October 12, 1997.
Some of his best-known songs include:
- "Annie's Song"
- "The Eagle and the Hawk"
- "Fly Away"
- "Follow Me"
- "I'm Sorry"
- "Leaving on a Jet Plane"
- "Poems, Prayers and Promises"
- "Rhymes and Reasons"
- "Rocky Mountain High"
- "Sunshine on My Shoulders"
- "Sweet Surrender"
- "Take Me Home, Country Roads"
- "Thank God I'm a Country Boy"
- "Wild Montana Skies"
Studio Solo Discography:
- John Denver Singsnote (1966)
- Rhymes & Reasons (1969)
- Take Me to Tomorrow (1970)
- Whose Garden Was This (1970)
- Poems, Prayers & Promises (1971)
- Aerie (1971)
- Rocky Mountain High (1972)
- Farewell Andromeda (1973)
- Back Home Again (1974)
- Windsong (1975)
- Rocky Mountain Christmas (1975)
- Spirit (1976)
- I Want to Live (1977)
- John Denver (1979)
- A Christmas Together (with The Muppets) (1979)
- Autograph (1980)
- Some Days Are Diamonds (1981)
- Seasons of the Heart (1982)
- Rocky Mountain Holiday (with The Muppets) (1982)
- It's About Time (1983)
- Dreamland Express (1985)
- One World (1986)
- Higher Ground (1988)
- Stonehaven Sunrise (1989)
- Earth Songs (1990)
- The Flower That Shattered the Stone (1990)
- Christmas, Like a Lullaby (1990)
- Different Directions (1991)
- All Aboard!note (1997)
- Love Againnote (1997)
- Forever, Johnnote (1998)
"Take Me Home, Country Tropes":
- Added Alliterative Appeal: His 1971 album is titled Poems, Prayers & Promises.
- Anti-Christmas Song: "Please, Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)"
- Artistic License – Geography: "Take Me Home, Country Roads" mentions the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River; both of these have a small presence in West Virginia's Jefferson County in the eastern panhandle, but don't appear elsewhere in West Virginia, with much of them being located in Virginia, proper.
- Celebrity Elegy: His song "Flying For Me" is dedicated to Christa McAullife, an American school teacher who died onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
- Christmas Songs: He recorded a number of Christmas albums, including one with the cast of The Muppet Show (in conjunction with a TV special of the same name).
- Cover Version: Recorded a bunch, especially songs by The Beatles.
- Homesickness Hymn:
- While the song doesn't offer any specifics on where he is, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is about a man who misses his home and family, and is driving to get there as fast as he can.
- The narrator of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" (initially titled "Babe, I Hate to Go") is homesick before he even leaves home: the song has him saying goodbye to his lover, promising that he'll return with her wedding ring.
- Honking Arriving Car: Mentioned in the song "Leaving on a Jet Plane." The taxi driver is waiting outside the narrator's home, and blowing his horn.
- Let's Duet: "Fly Away" (with Olivia Newton-John), "Wild Montana Skies" (with Emmylou Harris).
- Nature Lover: Denver loved the outdoors and nature and many of his songs were about the beauty of the wilderness.
- New Sound Album: 1971's Poems, Prayers and Promises debuted his familiar style: gentle acoustic pop with lyrics celebrating life and nature. It wasn't all that much of a departure from his first three albums, but they were in a contemporary folk style, and more musically and lyrically eclectic.
- Non-Actor Vehicle: Oh, God!. Obviously, George Burns was the star, but Denver still got second billing and played the protagonist who becomes acquainted with the title character.
- Round Hippie Shades: Part of his signature look. Beginning in The '80s, he began to move away from this image.
- Special Guest:
- Stage Name: His birth name was Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. He changed it to John Denver (after the capital city of Colorado, where he lived for much of his life) after it was pointed out "Deutschendorf" would be hard to fit on a marquee.