Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Music of John Denver: A Soundtrack to Childhood

On this date in 1997, John Denver's personal aircraft tragically crashed into the Pacific Ocean killing the 53 year old singer/activist. A quick listen to John's music and I'm quickly reminded of how much his songs mean to me. My love of his music began in childhood. His songs take me back to the old record player/stereo/8-track player that stood in my living room, all those years ago. As kids, my brother and I would sit on the floor and inspect his album covers from front to back and wonder who the bespectacled and curious-looking fellow with the nice voice was. His songs were meaningful stories filled with emotion. We may not have understood all of his lyrics but we sure did feel them. It's as if his melodies understood what we were going through. 

Sunshine on My Shoulders takes me back to my walks to school or standing in solitude in the schoolyard when recess friends were absent. Rocky Mountain High and Country Roads takes me back to family road trips to the United States. Everything about America fascinated me as a child. For the first few trips we took there, I was beside myself with delight (the magic never did fade). America. We were going to America. His music reminds me of how I felt crossing the border, the anticipation of meeting our American relatives (I imagined rightly or wrongly, large banquets and mountainside banjo sessions) and how everything seemed just a bit different once we crossed the 49th parallel. Of course who could forget John's stint on the Muppets. No explanation needed there. In retrospect, some of his songs, sadly, seem prophetic as if he was saying goodbye well ahead of his passing. What a soul. What a voice. Goosebumps.

So here's to you John Denver: thanks for providing a soundtrack to my childhood and for reminding me to hope as an adult. You are remembered with much love.


  1. John Denver's music comes from a wonderfully hopeful period, a large part of it coming right after the hippie period, when all that hope and idealism and love of nature was still in the air. Its something, an innocence, I feel has become lost in our more jaded age.

  2. Beautifully said Lazlo.

  3. I love your JD memories. I never had any of his albums as a kid but my Aunt Al had most of them. Either in 1979 or 1980 she made me a tape of an Evening with John Denver which I picked out of this collection. It was always my go to tape when I wanted to relax and escape my troubles. Country Roads, Rocky Mountain High, The Eagle and the Hawk and Rocky Mountain Suite were always my favourite. In the mid - late 80s I did dub some more tapes from the library and even bought his greatest hits album.

    I was just listening to my double cd of The Rocky Mountain Collection a few nights ago which really helped me to destress. I loved when he worked with the Muppets. We had the 8 track of the Christmas special then I got the record at a flea market in the early 1990s. It's hard to believe that he has been gone since 1997. It seems like not that long ago. I'm glad that my brother and I got to go to one of his concerts in 1991. I so enjoyed reading this post and it's so nice to share my JD memories with you.


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