Songs to Write By.
Nineteen years ago this month the world lost a man who through his music had sought to lift us to better places. On October 12, 1997, singer, songwriter, actor and activist John Denver died when his experimental aircraft crashed off the coast of California. He was 53. To say I was devastated that day is an understatement beyond measure. John’s music had filled my house and my car throughout much of the 1970’s. Once, I was lucky enough to see him in concert. It seemed he had a song for whatever ailed you, and whether or not you loved the American West as he did, you couldn’t help but sing along with Rocky Mountain High.As it is with many creative and driven people, John was not without his problems. He struggled with sobriety, drug use, and his personal life included two divorces. But there was no sweeter song than the one he sang to his little boy at Christmas. It never failed to make me cry. While he struggled to find his place in the music world, he was a most beloved entertainer and in 1975 was named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association.
John was an activist for the environment, a conservationist for the mountains he so loved, and a humanitarian for the many causes he supported. He had an interest in finding solutions to solving world hunger and developing sustainability projects. One can only wonder, if he’d lived, how he might have made an even more important difference in the world today. Sadly, it was his very drive to always try something new that led to his untimely death.
I still have my many John Denver albums and looking back at the songs I listened to by the hour back then, some of my favorites were these:
If I needed uplifting, Welcome to My Morning, Calypso, and Take Me to Tomorrow.
If I was feeling bittersweet: Poems, Prayers, and Promises and Leaving on a Jet Plane.
Flat out sad: Darcy Farrow and I’m Sorry.
Thinking about home and family: Take Me Home, Country Roads and Back Home Again.
His most unabashedly romantic song was Annie’s Song, written for his first wife after they had argued.Today I find myself listening to his Windsong album with its songs like Cowboy’s Delight and the even more appropriate (for the book I’m writing) Song of Wyoming. They’re sweet songs, they’re sad songs, and they take me back to sagebrush in the wind and the shadows of mountains in the distance. Take a listen and then maybe go search out the box of Puffs.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZM_7twcY8s (from Farewell Andromeda)
Thank you John Denver for giving us songs that continue to inspire and for giving me songs to write by.