I Remember John Denver

Remember the RSAF Apache Attack Helicopter (AH-64D) that crashed landed between Woodlands Avenue 12 and Woodlands Driver 75 open field on 30 Sep 2010 in the afternoon;

Credit : STOMP

I was sorting some old newspapers yesterday when I came across this article again and somehow reminded me of John Denver’s odd shaped Long-EZ plane that crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Pacific Grove, California killing him on 12 October 1997.

Credit : AirSafe.com

Today, 13 years after his death, many youngsters including my son (16) and daughter (11) may not even have heard of his songs.

John Denver, a pilot with over 2,700 hours of flying, was flying his newly purchased kit aircraft designed by Burt Rutan (one of the world’s greatest aerospace designer). The flaw that led to John Denver’s death were the work of the builder and had nothing to do with the designer. The flaws (placement of the fuel selection valve) were meant to improve on the designer’s work however kill Denver. Other factors that led to his death include his unfamilarity with the aircraft and failure to refuel it. The wreck had badly disfigured Denver’s head and body.

I remember John Denver cowboy figure with long blond hair, with his signature round granny glasses and a cowboy hat;

I love listening to his songs in the 70s when I was a primary 4 or maybe 5 boy and of course the first song I listened to, that probably made him popular, was “Take me home, country road“.

As I was only in primary school with little pocket money, so I had to tape down his songs with a blank cassette tape direct from the radio. This seem common to most school boys of my time but of course not now any more with technology advancement. I love John Denver’s songs as he shared his personal history via his songs. This song “Take me home, country road” was written by his friends Taffy Nivert, Bill Danoff and together with him. Inspiration came to Danoff and Nivert while driving to a family reunion and to pass time en route, Danoff made up the ballad about the little winding roads in the journey. Later the story changed to fit an artist friend who told him about the splendors of West Virginia countryside. The three stayed up till the early morning, changing lyrics and moving lines and Denver decided to use this song for his album, Poems, Prayers and Promises;

The original album advertising art;

Credit : Janet Reva Maslin, Rolling Stone, 9/16/71

This album Poems, Prayers and Promises did not contain all John Denver’s songs and include songs from Paul McCartney and John Lennon, etc. The other song that I liked in this album is “Sunshine On My Shoulders” sung by John Denver;

John Denver’s first album was “Rhymes and Reasons” released in 1969 by RCA Records. Of course during that time, vinyl records were the in-thing as there wasn’t such a thing as CDs yet. This definitely make up my favourite song list from him;

You may see how this song Rhymes and Reasons was interpreted here, interesting. This was his debut album after going solo as before he was usually sang and performed with groups.

The other song “Leaving on a jet plane” in his debut album, was originally named “Babe I hate to go”, which was a demo song Denver gave out as Christmas presents. The folk group Peter, Paul and Mary sang this song and their version became the Billboard Hot 100 number one hit.

Synchronicity are things seem like more then mere coincidence and one good example is John Denver’s songs. One may relate his song “Leaving on a jet plane” to John Denver died in his plane…. The other song “Rocky Mountain High” that he wrote relate how much he loved Colorado till his death. The capitol of Colorado is Denver – he adopted this surname “Denver” instead of his name “Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr”.

Some of my favourites are;

Annie’s Song : This song was written as an ode to his then wife Annie. It took him only ten and a half minutes in a ski lift on top of the Bell Mountain in Aspen, Colorado. Thinking about his wife at that moment inspired him to write this song.

Perhaps Love : This song became a commercial success because the record player couldn’t work at that time. Denver wrote this song and recorded with Pacido Domingo as a duet. The owner of the radio station wanted to hear it but the record player was down so he played it live over the air. In seconds, calls came in asking where they could get the record and it became a smash hit! Interesting?

Last but not least Sweet Surrender : This song was chosen as the lead single from the concert album “An Evening with John Denver” recorded in 1974.

If you want to read a bit more on him, here it is. Though we may have CDs now, but nothing beats listening to his song on tapes and records.


What my father wrote;

“Death quits all scores.”


25 Responses to “I Remember John Denver”

  1. 1 kimology Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Simple, unpretentious, I love his songs. Thanks for the post.
    ‘Sunshine on my Shoulders’ was used in a movie about cancer. Anyone remember that movie?

  2. 2 Lam Chun See Monday, October 18, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    John Denver is also one of my favourite singers. I like his clear sharp voice. My favourite JD songs are Annie’s Song and Perhaps Love.

    Even as I type this comment, I am listening to my CD of his greatest hits Vol 3. However, I only like about half of the 11 songs in this his later works; including the Perhaps Love duet with Placido Domingo. I suspect he was the one who started this trend of pairing with a Tenor to do a pop song.

    Do you recall that at one time, RTS/SBC used to air a JD show; or perhaps you were a bit too young then?

  3. 3 Lam Chun See Monday, October 18, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks for posting that video clip of the JD-PD duet. I never get tired of listening to this song. And it so nice to see the friendly relaxed partnership.

    I have a dvd of Simon and Garfunkel concert recorded somewhere in 2003. The uncomfortable body language esp. from Paul Simon is really painful to watch. But man, the music is still beautiful. And what a thrill to see that Art Garfunkel could still hit the high notes in Bridge over Troubled Waters.

  4. 4 laokokok Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    I’m not so sure if it’s called JD show but I do remember other shows like Osmonds or Donnie and Osmond in the B/W tv era. Also the Jackson family when Micharel Jackson was still a very young kid then.

  5. 5 yg Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    one of our – actually, not mine but my former students – favourite camp songs was ‘take me home,country road’. my own favourite is any song. i mean ‘annie’ song.

  6. 6 Andy Lim Friday, December 10, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    John Denver. Great singer/songwriter. ‘Annie’s Song’ is my favourite. Fantastic blog. You fill up my senses!

  7. 7 Rahman Marop Sunday, December 26, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Yes I remember John Denver and I just missed him and his songs especially Annie’s Song. His songs melody will always remained in my mind. He don’t deserve to die in this tragic way. Well may god bless him of the good things he did.

  8. 8 harry dean Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    With it all I was like JD an aircraft pilot also. If possible I would choose the same death as John Denver.
    If my plane should fall today
    If my craft should not stay
    Up high in the air this day
    If I should crash and die today
    Then recall you heard me say
    “I would have it no other way”

    By hjay1211@gmail.com

  9. 9 Teik Meng Teh Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 6:36 am

    A good say on my fave C & W singer, John Denver ….. and an appropriate tribute to remember him ….thanks……..:-)

  10. 10 Typi Monday, July 23, 2012 at 1:27 am

    yes me too love John Denver’s songs and when I think of him its like his plane just crashed yesterday, its so vivid the memory of losing him when we admire his songs so much, somehow feels like he never left and still living amongst us

  11. 11 Typi Monday, July 23, 2012 at 1:30 am

    Leaving on a Jetplane, Annie and Rocky Mountain High have a special place in my heart where John Denver resides. Thanks for the memory

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  14. 14 Andrew Goh Sunday, March 16, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Rocky Mountain High is my favorite song!

  15. 15 Ben Dover Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    This guy was pathetic. He was just a plain old rocky mountain high boy, yah, with 10 million dollar houses, airplanes, race cars, booze and drugs. He was just a county boy. LOL

  16. 16 Ben Dover Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    They change the lyrics to ,you light up my senses. It’s now, you light up my Cessna, with salty blue water.

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