John Denver

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About John Denver

With his clear voice, blond mop, embroidered denim shirts and syrup-sweet songs, John Denver gently dominated the 1970s as a paragon of country comforts and emotional sincerity. The singer/songwriter was born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. in 1943, to an Air Force pilot in Roswell, New Mexico. His family’s frequent moving fed into his childhood introversion, but a guitar gifted to him at age 11 by his grandmother offered a way out of his head. After cutting his teeth at small clubs—and changing his name—Denver followed the folk movement to Los Angeles, where he struck songwriting gold in 1969 by penning Peter, Paul & Mary's biggest hit, "Leaving on a Jet Plane". Denver’s own string of ubiquitous easy-going singles—“Take Me Home, Country Roads”, “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, “Annie’s Song” and “Rocky Mountain High” among them—offered reassurance and nostalgia during a decade marked by war and protest. His even-keeled charm helped make him one of the best-selling and most beloved artists of his era, and that trademark earnestness had a life beyond song: He hosted five Grammy Awards ceremonies and made two TV Christmas specials with the Muppets. But Denver was an effective activist as well. He walked the environmental idealism he sang about, cofounded the international Hunger Project with self-help guru Werner Erhard and helped oversee the National Space Society. Sadly, that still-growing legacy was cut short in 1997 when Denver crashed a small plane he was flying alone off the coast of California.

Roswell, NM, United States
31 December 1943
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