A well-watered tree sends its limbs skyward in many directions. So it is with the unique career of John Denver, nurtured first as songwriter and building on this musical base, branching out later as performer, actor and particularly as humanitarian and philanthropist.
Henry John Deutschendorf was a familiar figure during the mid sixties as a performer in Los Angeles folk clubs. In this earlier day, he took his performing name from the city just east of the front range of the Rocky Mountains, and the capitol of the state he calls home.
With his new name established, a second major milestone came when John Denver won out over 250 other applicants for a job as lead singer for The Chad Mitchell Trio, a popular west coast folk group. He was a member in good standing for two years and through this association, made the acquaintance of another folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, who discovered Denver's song, "Leavin' On a Jet Plane." It became their very first number one hit, and a highway to mass appeal.
Within months, Denver began his own journey up the best-selling record charts, with a myriad of major hits, virtually all of which have entered the ranks of the most popular of all standards. "Rocky Mountain High," "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Sunshine On My Shoulders," "Annie's Song," "Back Home Again," "Calypso" and "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," were all on the list, contributing to the nation's entertainment as well as to a growing appreciation and concern for the environment.
In terms of record sales, he ranks at the top of the heap with 14 gold and eight platinum albums to his credit in the United States alone. The John Denver Greatest Hits album ranks as one of the biggest sellers in the history of RCA Records, with more than 10 million copies sold.
On another front, Denver became a world traveler having been one of the first to complete a full concert tour of the Soviet Union in 1985. He returned two years later to perform a benefit concert for the victims of the Chernobyl disaster. In October 1992, Denver did a multi-city tour of China, where he was amazed to find ready recognition among the fans there of his hit songs. Denver is also a much-acclaimed performer in the English-speaking world of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand as well as in Holland, Germany, France and Italy.
Denver also played the role of advocate for the earth, a man working toward improving the quality of life for all peoples, environmentally, socially and politically. He was active in the work of The Wildlife Conservation Society, The National Wildlife Federation, Save the Children, The Cousteau Society, Dennis Weaver's Institute of Ecolonomics and The Rocky Mountain Institute. He was the founder of The Windstar Foundation and the creator of "Plant it 2000," a program that urges the world's people to plant as many trees as possible by the year 2000.
John Denver was lost on October 12, 1997, when his experimental aircraft crashed in California.