John Denver Band
December 19-23, 2009
One of Aspen’s favorite sons, as well as one of the world’s best-known and best-loved performers, John Denver earned international acclaim as a songwriter, performer, actor, environmentalist and humanitarian. John’s music has spanned three decades, outlasted countless musical trends, and garnered numerous music awards and honors, including a 1996 Induction into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and in 1993, the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Music Award.
The son of a U.S Air Force officer, John’s artistic journey began after the family moved to Tucson, where at age eleven, he was given his grandmother’s guitar. John eventually took up guitar lessons and joined a boy’s choir, which led him at age 20 to take matters into his own hands and pursue his dream of a career in music.
In 1963 he struck out on his own, moving to Los Angeles to be in the heart of the burgeoning music scene. It was during this time that Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. was urged by friends to change his name if a recording career was to be in his future. His friends suggested the name John Sommerville, but he ultimately took his stage name from the beautiful Rocky Mountain capital city of Colorado, his home state.
John Denver experienced his first major break in the music industry when he was chosen from 250 other hopefuls as lead singer for the popular Mitchell Trio. Two years and three albums later, John had honed his considerable vocal talent and developed his own song writing style. He soon gained recognition when his song “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, becoming their first and only Number One hit.
Less than two years later, after the trio disbanded, John himself was climbing up the Pop charts with songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “Calypso,”—solidifying his position as one of the top stars of the decade.
Denver’s concert tours reached millions globally. The world embraced John—captivated by each new release, including 14 gold albums and 8 platinum albums in the U.S as well as numerous gold and platinum sales overseas. A separate and unique version of the song was recorded in Moscow as a duet with the well-known Soviet singer Alexandre Gradsky. That recording was the first time a Soviet artist was allowed to perform on a record with a major American singer. The powerful video of “Let Us Begin” moved viewers around the world.
“I thought that I might be able to do something to further the cause of East/West understanding. (This) seemed like a good time to see the face behind all the propaganda. The Russians say that the first swallow of spring won’t make the weather for the whole season, but it can mark the turn toward a warmer climate. I tried to be that swallow.” The success of his visit paved the way for a concert tour of the USSR in 1986. These were the first performances by an American artist since the cold war began—an unprecedented cultural exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. He returned to the USSR in 1987 to do a benefit concert for the victims of Chernobyl.
John was also the first artist from the West to do a multi-city tour of Mainland China, in October 1992. He was somewhat astonished to discover how popular and well known his songs were with the Chinese. “Country Roads,” he was told, “is the most famous song written in the West.”
John also contributed his talents to the benefit of many charitable and environmental causes and has received numerous civic and humanitarian awards over the years. Today, millions of fans, old and new, enjoy the work of this extraordinary performer. 30 albums and three decades after he began, John Denver’s music is as relevant as ever. His humanitarian work continues to strengthen our global village, and his dynamic celebration of life, spirit and nature is a powerful inspiration to us all.