Denver had a successful singing and songwriting career, and a minor career as an actor—his most notable film credit being in 1977's Oh, God! opposite George Burns. In 1994 Denver wrote an autobiography entitled Take Me Home. He was born in Roswell, New Mexico, lived most of his adult life in Aspen, Colorado and died off the coast of Monterey, California while piloting a Rutan Long-EZ, an experimental fiberglass airplane. Denver's plane had the fuel tank selector located behind his seat and it is believed he lost control while trying to engage the secondary fuel tank.
Denver was recognized not only for his musical ability but also for his humanitarian work. He worked extensively on conservation projects and helped to create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He also founded his own environmental group called the Windstar Foundation. Denver had a keen interest in the causes of and solution to hunger, and visited Africa during the 1980s to witness first-hand the suffering caused by starvation and also to work with African leaders towards a solution.
After an enjoyable experience as a guest on The Muppet Show, he recorded two Muppets television specials: John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979) and John Denver and the Muppets: Rocky Mountain Holiday (1982).
Defying all conventional labels, John Denver held a singular place in American music: a songwriter whose immensely popular work was suffused with a deep and abiding kinship with the natural world.
In the months just prior to his death in a plane accident in 1997, Denver was filming an episode of the Nature series, centering on the natural wonders that inspired many of his best-loved songs. The result is a poignant and melodic film that records his final journeys into the wilderness and contains his last song, "Let this be a voice", composed while rafting along the Colorado River with his son and young daughter.
The exact cause and the popular media explainations regarding his untimely death is controversial in nature. Experts do not agree on the cause of the plane crash.
Denver started his recording career with the Chad Mitchell Trio; his distinctive voice can be heard where he sings solo on Violets of Dawn. He recorded three albums with the Mitchell Trio, replacing Chad Mitchell himself as lead singer. His group Denver, Boise and Johnson released a single before he moved on to a solo career.
Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert appeared as singers and songwriters on many of Denver's albums up until forming the Starland Vocal Band in 1976. The band's albums were released on Denver's Windstar label.
Denver's early solo success was largely due to a recording of his Leaving, on a Jet Plane which was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. It became a number 1 hit for the group.
Denver recorded songs by Tom Paxton, Eric Anderson, David Mallet, and many others in the folk scene.
- Rhymes & Reasons - 1969 †
- Take Me To Tomorrow - 1970
- Whose Garden Was This? - 1970
- Poems, Prayers, and Promises - 1971 †
- Aerie - 1972
- Rocky Mountain High - 1972 †
- Farewell Andromeda - 1973
- Greatest Hits - 1973 ††
- Back Home Again - 1974
- An Evening with John Denver (live) - 1975
- Windsong - 1975 †
- Rocky Mountain Christmas - 1975
- Spirit - 1976
- Greatest Hits Vol. 2 - 1977
- I Want To Live - 1977
- John Denver (JD) - 1978
- A Christmas Together (with The Muppets) - 1979
- Autograph - 1980
- Some Days Are Diamonds - 1981
- Seasons of the Heart - 1982
- It's About Time - 1983
- Rocky Mountain Holiday (with The Muppets) - 1983
- Greatest Hits Vol. 3 - 1984
- Dreamland Express - 1985
- One World - 1986
- Higher Ground - 1989
- Earth Songs - 1990
- The Flower That Shattered the Stone - 1990
- Christmas, Like a Lullaby - 1990
- Different Directions - 1991
† Albums widely considered to be among Denver's most important works.
†† The first "Greatest Hits" album is important historically because it contains new, revisionist recordings of several hit songs. After its release these versions were used for airplay despite differing in subtle but important ways from the original versions; generally, they are more polished.
Songs of Note
- "Annie's Song", written in the 1970s, for his then-wife Annie. See also Sheffield United
- "Rocky Mountain High"
- "For Baby"
- "Thank God I'm a Country Boy"
- "Leaving, On a Jet Plane"
- "Take Me Home, Country Roads" - The de facto anthem of West Virginia, though it has no official status
- "Sunshine On My Shoulders"
- "Calypso" - A musical tribute to Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his crew
- JohnDenver.com (official site)
- All Music Guide
- Rocky Mountain High Fan Club
- UK Friends of John Denver
- The IMDb entry on Denver
- PBS Nature site