John Denver Biography

John Denver Biography

The name Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. is a name that will almost certainly mean nothing to you but I guarantee that you will know exactly who he is and will have almost certainly heard and probably even whistled along with his hit records on the radio over the last 35 years.
For the young Deutschendorf eventually found fame and became better known as internationally renowned singer-songwriter and political activist John Denver.

Henry Deutschendorf was born on New Years Eve 1943 not in the city of Denver or one of its neighbouring environs as you might assume from his nom-de-plume, but in Roswell New Mexico into a forces family. His father was serving in a nearby base in the American Air Force, a career which would imbibe his son with a lifelong love and passion for flight and air travel which would eventually have tragic consequences.

However it was to music rather than to the air that Deutschendorf turned having been given a vintage 1910 acoustic guitar by his Grandmother whilst still a teenager.

Not much is known about his early life, maybe because he moved around as his Father took up new air force postings, until 1964 when he dropped out of the college and moved to Los Angeles to join local folk group the Chad Mitchell trio, where his songwriting skill briefly enlivened a group that was already on the wane.
Henry Deutschendorf though a perfectly good name was also proving to be a bit of a mouthful and maybe not one that suited the burgeoning and exciting mid-60's music scene, so for professional purposes he abandoned his birth name, briefly becoming John Somerville before alighting upon John Denver, the name been taken in tribute to the capital city of Colorado a state which he felt a great affinity with.

The Chad Mitchell trio enlivened by the bright young singer-songwriter in their ranks managed to extend their career until 1969, whereupon after a brief name change to the trio Denver left to become a solo act and almost immediately released his debut album "Rhymes and Reasons", which was not a hit but contained possibly his most loved composition "leaving on a jet-plane" which was written about his lifelong love for air travel and became a worldwide hit when covered by folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary.

It wasn't until the 1971 smash-hit "Take me home, Country Roads" that Denver found true superstardom, but from that point on he was rarely out of the charts for the next five years, as the record buying public warmed to his simple, tender, sincere songs and his blond choir boy looks which just seemed suited to sing such songs as "Thank God I'm a country boy" and 1974's "Annie's Song", a loving tribute to his wife. At the peak of his pomp in the mid-seventies the state governor of his adopted state Colorado proclaimed him the state's first poet laureate.

However as the seventies became the eighties music trends shifted and Denver found himself out of fashion with all but his most ardent fans.
So rather than lick his wounds and wait for the music industry to proclaim back in fashion, Denver shifted his emphasis into political activism and humanitarian work, particularly within the field of environmental issues.

He continued these good works until his tragic and untimely death on 12th October 1997, where with a terrible irony given his life-long fascination with aircraft and the title of his first hit record, he was killed whilst piloting a home-made experimental aircraft.

And as his many fans mourned his passing they were comforted by the knowledge that though the man maybe gone his music shall always survive.

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