The power of his lyrics, the crystal-quality of his voice and the simplicity of his presentation as a man with his guitar made John Denver one of the best-selling and most loved American solo recording artists of the 1970s.
He was named the AMA favorite Pop/Rock Male artist in 1975 and 1976. Denver, who was born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. was inducted into the songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996. His life and career were cut short when a plane he was piloting crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Monterey Bay, California Oct. 12, 1997
10. ‘I’m Sorry’
The ups and downs of relationships are a common theme in Denver’s music. ‘I’m Sorry’ topped both the Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs charts in 1975.
Denver was a conservation activist and traveled on Jacques Cousteau’s research ship ‘Calypso.’ Denver said that although the chorus came easily, he had difficulty writing the verses, and, at one point, gave up. It was while skiing down a mountain, the block that prevented ‘Calypso’ from becoming a finished work was lifted, and he skied to his car, drove home and wrote the verses.
8. ‘Thank God I’m A Country Boy’
Denver always introduced this song with, ‘Alright everybody, clap your hands for me.’ This foot-stomping number, filled with fiddles and banjo-picking, exalts the country life and pokes fun at city folk. It was a number one hit in 1975.
7. ‘The Eagle and the Hawk’
The metaphor of man as an eagle exemplifies Denver’s kinship with nature. Denver’s voice takes soaring runs in the chorus, creating the image of a noble bird in flight.
6. ‘Annie’s Song’
This love song written for Denver’s first wife became a classic among love songs. The emotion-choked lyrics compare images from nature to the depth of love felt by the singer. ‘Annie’s Song’ was a Billboard Hot 100 number one hit in 1974.
5. ‘Sunshine on My Shoulders’
A 1974 number one hit, ‘Sunshine on My Shoulders’ is in the classic John Denver style of finding joy in nature. It was made the theme song for a 1973 made for TV movie ‘Sunshine.’
4. ‘Back Home Again’
Winner of the CMA 1975 Song of the Year, it was Denver’s fifth Top Ten hit, demonstrating his crossover popularity. The gentle imagery of home and hearth, combined with a lilting melody and rising bridge made this one of his most popular tunes.
3. ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’
Written by Denver in 1966, it became a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1969. He originally titled the song ‘Babe, I Hate to Go,’ but was encouraged by producer Milt Okun, the man credited with bringing Denver into the national spotlight, to change the title. The success of ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ launched Denver’s career.
2. ‘Rocky Mountain High’
Designated as the state song of Colorado in 2007, Rocky Mountain High describes the experience of coming to the mountains as a ‘rebirth.’ It was a Top Ten hit for Denver in 1973.
1. ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’
Written by Denver with Bill and Taffy Danoff (Starland Vocal Band,) this sing-along style folk song became his signature song. ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’ was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 to honor its lasting significance.