Music on Mondays (10-12-15)—Country boy or alien?

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

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.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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8 thoughts on “Music on Mondays (10-12-15)—Country boy or alien?

  1. babso2you

    I am thinking that Annie’s Song has got to be one of my most favorite Denver songs. Just checking in as it has been a while. They found a new C and am now undergoing a new treatment. Hugs to both you and Jim and tummy tickles to you know who… Love to you all… ^..^

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  2. jolynnpowers

    Funny, I have lived all of my adult life in West Virginia and all of my Child hood in Colorado so I took the name MountainMama on for my blog because as a child in the 70’s John was everywhere..and a huge part of my life. Growing up in the Denver Metro area we would hear rumors about him and his problems with drugs and alcohol at lot. We heard about the tree story and the nutty stuff he would do while living on his ranch in Vale. Even if he had the image of being the boy next door I guess you could say he was a flawed man who could speak to the heart with his songs. I still love his music and will continue to be a Mountain Mama because some how he was able to capture my love of the mountain life like no other! Thanks for the post Ray it made me smile.

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  3. philosophermouseofthehedge

    Didn’t know he wrote Jet Plane. Always like that song.
    Denver, however, I lost faith in a long time ago. Hypocrite. Remember the oil/gas crisis in the 70’s? Turn out despite all his environmental image, he had several huge storage tanks placed in the ground of his ranch so he’d have all the gas he needed – after all he could afford it…and there were other things. The way he treated Annie, his wife among other things – Sorry, Denver, I can’t separate your stage performance from your life performance.
    No longer do I fund bad behavior . No longer do I excuse “artistic temperament”. I made my choice. You made yours
    (But enjoyed the post, Russel! Hope the rain isn’t causing too much problems for you – this El Nino is going to be a doozie)

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Personally I never cared for Denver’s music. However, I understand because I’m the same way with Ted Nugent. I liked him from the beginning but I can’t separate his life performance from his stage performance.

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