Denver, John (originally, Deutschendorf, Henry John)

views updated

Denver, John (originally, Deutschendorf, Henry John)

Denver, John (originally, Deutschendorf, Henry John) , pleasant-voiced singer/songwriter and movie actor; b. Roswell, N.Mex., Dec. 31,1943; d. in a small-plane crash that he was piloting, near L.A., Oct. 12, 1997. Denver was a folk-country singer/songwriter who had his greatest success in the mid-1970s with his back-to-nature hymns “Rocky Mountain High” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Denver’s bland tenor vocals and golly-gosh manners made him popular both in films and as a middle-of-the-road popster.

Denver was the son of a career Air Force pilot. He performed with the Chad Mitchell Trio in the early 1960s, one of the more topically oriented of the folk-revival groups. In 1965, he replaced leader Chad Mitchell in the group, continuing to record with them until 1969 when the trio dissolved. Denver was signed to RCA as a solo artist, recording his first album combining self-penned satirical songs attacking then-president Nixon and the war in Vietnam along with his sentimental pop songs like “(Leaving on a) Jet Plane,” which had been a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary.

Denver’s big break came in 1971 with his recording of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” followed by a string of country-flavored pop hits, including the sappy ballad “Annie’s Song” and the up-tempo, enthusiastic “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Denver began a film-acting career in 1977, showing himself to be an affable comedian. He continued to record his own material through the mid-1980s with limited success, forming his own label later to promote a country album Higher Ground in 1988, featuring the title hit. Denver died while piloting a small airplane in 1997.


Rhymes and Reasons (1969); Rocky Mountain High (1972); John Denver’s Greatest Hits (1973); Back Home Again (1974); An Evening with John Denver (1975); Windsong (1975); Spirit (1976); John Denver (1979); A Christmas Together (with the Muppets; 1979); Autograph (1980); Wildlife Concert (1995); The Rocky Mountain Collection (1996); The Country Roads Collection (1997).

—Richard Carlin

About this article

Denver, John (originally, Deutschendorf, Henry John)

Updated About content Print Article