Friday, October 28, 2011

John Denver

John Denver was one of the most successful singer-songwriters of the 1970s. His most successful albums included Poems, Prayers, and Promises (1971), which featured the hits "Take Me Home, Country Roads;" Rocky Mountain High (1972), and Back Home Again (1974) featuring "Thank God I’m A Country Boy." He was an pilot and an outspoken environmental advocate. He died in a plane he was piloting in 1997.

Early Career
Singer-songwriter. Born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., on December 31, 1943, in Roswell, New Mexico, to parents Henry John and Erma. As a teenager, Denver received his first guitar, a 1910 Gibson acoustic, as a gift from his grandmother. He attended the Texas Technical University from 1961-1964, but dropped out before completing his studies. In 1965, after traveling to New York City and successfully auditioning for the Chad Mitchell Trio, he began performing with the group until 1968.

Meanwhile, the folk-pop group Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a song he'd written, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and its success gave Denver a higher profile in the music industry. Record executives had already convinced him to change his last name to Denver. partly in honor of the city and surrounding Rocky Mountains that he treasured, and partly due to his clean-living image. He signed with Mercury RCA Records in 1969 and released his first single, "Rhymes and Reasons." In the next two years, he released four moderately successful albums, including Take Me to Tomorrow (1970) and Aerie (1971).

Commercial Success
With his wholesome good looks and down-to-earth appeal, Denver was considered the golden boy of folk music. Soon he was playing to sold-out crowds in stadiums across the country. The most successful albums of his career included Poems, Prayers, and Promises (1971), which featured the hit: "Take Me Home, Country Roads;" Rocky Mountain High (1972), and Back Home Again (1974) featuring the title track, "Annie’s Song," and "Thank God I’m A Country Boy."

In 1977, Denver made his film debut in Oh, God!, costarring George Burns. Even though the film was a minor box-office hit, Denver's acting career was thereafter limited to television until 1997, when he starred in Craig Clyde's outdoor adventure film Walking Thunder. John Denver and the Muppets (1980), The Christmas Gift (1986), and Higher Ground (1988) are among the numerous television specials in which he either hosted or starred.

As a renowned environmentalist and humanitarian, Denver's membership in many organizations included the National Space Institute, the Cousteau Society, Friends of the Earth, Save the Children Foundation, and the European Space Agency. In 1976, he cofounded the Windstar Foundation, a non-profit wildlife preservation agency. In addition to founding the World Hunger Project in 1977, he was personally appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the commission on World and Domestic Hunger. He became a chair member of the National UNICEF Day in 1984. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan presented Denver with the Presidential World Without Hunger Award. That same year, he won an additional six awards for Rocky Mountain Reunion, his documentary about endangered species. In 1993, he won the Albert Schweitzer Music Award for humanitarian efforts.

Among numerous awards and recognition for his musical achievements, he received the Top Male Recording Artist Award from Record World magazine for 1974-75. Also in 1975, he was named the Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year.

In 1967, Denver married Anne Marie Martell, a psychotherapist. Together they had two children, Zachary and Anna Kate, before their divorce in 1983. Denver was married to Cassandra Delaney from 1988 to 1991. Together they had one child, Jesse Bell.

A longtime aviator, Denver died on October 12, 1997 when the plane that he was piloting went down over Monterey Bay, California, killing him instantly.

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