On this date in 1997, John Denver died when his experimental amateur aircraft crashed into Monterey Bay on the California coast.
Interestingly, Denver first hit the charts in 1969 not as a singer but as a songwriter when Peter, Paul & Mary hit the top of the charts “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” I guess flying was naturally in his blood.
Denver was an accomplished private pilot with more than 2,700 hours on various single- and multi-engine aircraft, as well as having both an instrument and a Lear Jet rating. At the time of his death, he was flying an aircraft with which he was somewhat unfamiliar and, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation. Shortly after taking off from a Pacific Grove airfield under ideal flying conditions, Denver apparently lost control of his Long-EZ aircraft. The NTSB investigation also found that Denver had experienced control problems with the aircraft on previous occasions.
Denver made his own claim to fame as a singer in 1971 with his hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
Not only did “Take Me Home, Country Roads” have an inauspicious debut at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart of April 10, 1971, it fell off the chart for two weeks before reappearing at #91 and continuing a slow rise to #2—86, 80, 73, 70, 62, 52, 48, 36, 30, 20, 12, 9, 8, 6, 3, 3, and 2, where it stayed for one week before dropping down the chart. It was kept out of the #1 spot by the Bee Gees with “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.”
John Denver (1943-1997) was born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., in Roswell, New Mexico. Maybe he really wasn’t a country boy…. Maybe he was an alien! With all of his songs about Colorado, not to mention taking the last name Denver, I just presumed that he was born in Colorado….
Denver was one of the most successful recording artists of the ’70s, releasing 11 albums that were certified Platinum by the RIAA. He had 25 hits, nine of which made the Top 10, and four of which hit #1. Here are his #1 hits:
In my research for this post, I discovered the following. It’s not from a peer-reviewed journal and has no citations so I do not know whether or not it’s true:
“John Denver was a very talented artist and he produced some beautiful music, but people need to understand he was a very flawed man……very flawed. He cheated on his wife Annie not once but several times, the very same Annie that was the subject of his ode to love in ‘Annies Song.’ He lied about it to her and then fessed up in his song ‘I’m Sorry’, which, while beautiful, is really nothing more than a guy wallowing in self pity for the troubles he caused. He tried to strangle Annie once when he got pissed. He blew up when he got back from a trip and discovered she had cut down a tree on their property and proceeded to cut up some of their furniture (a bed or a dining table – not sure which) with a chain saw. He reeks of hypocrisy in ‘Rocky Mountain High when he sings of development as being ‘more people, more scars upon the land,’ basically saying ‘I got mine, now the rest of you stay away.’ “
Well, some of the most beautiful music is written in response to sad circumstances. Eric Clapton’s beautiful hit, “Tears In Heaven,” comes immediately to mind.
My last stop was Wikipedia, usually my first stop. There I found that, at the time of his death, John Denver did not have a valid pilot’s license because of two previous drunk driving charges. Of course, one would not want an aircraft pilot to be drunk while flying….
Since I have personal experience with alcohol and its effects courtesy of my mom and step-dad, I’m leaning on the quoted text as probably being true.
Need a unique gift for a special occasion?
Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America