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John Denver: America's Favorite Country Boy In The '70s

Music | August 20, 2018

Left: John Denver on 'Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell' on September 20, 1975. (Photo by Ann Limongello/ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) Right: Denver in 'Oh God!' (1977). Source: IMDB

Country and folk singer John Denver achieved massive fame with hits like "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High," and "Annie's Song," yet always had a low-key and unassuming way about him. Fans were able to identify with him because he exuded the aura of an ordinary man; not someone caught up in fame and show business. His look was that of a small-town guy -- even when he was performing on the biggest TV shows and concert stages. Denver was most comfortable in denim, flannel and the style of a working man’s clothes.

Like many celebrities, Denver had some personal problems that his success only exacerbated -- despite reaching the pinnacle of stardom, he battled alcoholism for years, and there are documented stories of his low-points that aren't pretty. When his life came to a premature end, alcohol wasn't the culprit -- Denver, an enthusiastic pilot, died in a planecrash.

Denver was born in New Mexico as Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. As many artists and performers will do, Deutschendorf adopted a stage name; something catchy that would be easy to remember. He chose the name “Denver” because Denver, Colorado was his happy place and truly resonated with his soul. John Denver embraced the simple way of life and made it his life’s work to bring it to all of us in song.

Songs We'll Always Remember

The list of John Denver’s hit songs is quite extensive. This list includes some awesome songs including "Annie’s Song," "Take Me Home Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High," "Sunshine on My Shoulders," "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and "Thank God I’m a Country Boy."  The list, literally, goes on and on. The messages that Denver’s song sent were of mellow and happy times…. a state of mind we all longed for during the counterculture.

Despite the fact that he was one of the most famous and successful singer/songwriters in American music history, John Denver’s superstar status couldn’t protect him from reality.

We often tend to assume that because a person is professionally and financially successful that they “have it made.” This is not necessarily the case, however. John Denver is said to have had his demons. One of his demons was an addiction to alcohol. Just like the rest of us, he was only human. At one point, he had the world at his fingertips but, unfortunately, he may not have been prepared for it. Like anything else, fame comes with a price.

John Denver, At His Best, Was An Inspiration To Fans

With all of this in mind, Denver no doubt inspired audiences with his easy style. All the while, he struggled with his own inner peace. After the divorce between he and his first wife, Annie, a bitter seed had been planted in his heart. He was never quite the same after that. If you recall, Annie was his inspiration for "Annie’s Song." 

Denver's Demons Came To Haunt Him After He Became A Star

Unfortunately, fame seemed to the be downfall of Denver’s marriage to Annie. All of the principles that he tried so hard to make clear to others had failed him. His epic success ultimately drove a wedge between the two. Fortunately, however, he was able to pick up the pieces and married again.

Flying airplanes was another one of John Denver’s passions. There is just something so liberating and free about being in the sky all alone. Sadly, flying, something he loved to do, was how this icon lost his life. He was piloting an experimental plane that crashed into the Monterey Bay in California in 1997.  

Some Have Said That Denver's Plane Crash Was Suicide

There has been a debate going on since the time of his death that he actually committed suicide, but nothing has ever been confirmed. Because of his experience as a pilot, it has been said that he purposely crashed the plane in order to end his own misery.

John Denver had always loved, and subsequently adopted Colorado as his home State. He loved the peaceful feel of it and for his entire adult life, maintained a home in Aspen. All he ever wanted to do was to make music and enjoy the simple life. In the process, his life played out in the public eye. Denver was the first person ever inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and rightfully so. 

Tags: 1970s Country Music | John Denver | The 1970s | What Did He Do?...

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.