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7/2/07

John Denver


John Denver (December 31, 1943 -- October 12, 1997), born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was an American folk singer-songwriter and folk rock musician who was one of the most popular artists of the 1970s. He recorded and released some 300 songs, about half of which he had composed, and was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1977. Denver's songs were suffused with a deep and abiding kinship with the natural world. Songs such as "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "Leaving on a Jet Plane", "Calypso", "Annie's Song", "Thank God I'm A Country Boy", and "Rocky Mountain High" are popular worldwide. Denver has been referred to as "The Poet For the Planet", "Mother Nature's Son" (based on The Beatles song he covered) and "A Song's Best Friend".

On October 12, 1997, Denver was killed when the Long-EZ aircraft he was piloting crashed just off the coast of California at Pacific Grove.

The Long-EZ that Denver was flying is a two-seat experimental aircraft, designed in the 1970s by Burt Rutan. Denver's particular plane, bought used, had been changed from Rutan's specs: The fuel tank selector valve had been moved from the front to the back. Featuring tandem seats, when being flown solo it was to be flown from the rear seat. Denver, like many EZ pilots, was flying solo from the front.

Denver apparently lost control of the aircraft while attempting to manipulate the fuel selector handle, located in the rear cockpit in his plane, after running out of fuel in one tank. Witnesses stated that the plane made a sudden pitch-down plunge into the water, leading to speculation that, in reaching around to the rear, Denver bumped or kicked the side-stick control. The official investigation decided that he had likely inadvertently pushed the right rudder pedal trying to gain leverage to turn in his seat to reach the fuel handle.

A pilot with over 2700 hours of experience, Denver had multiengine, instrument, and Lear Jet type ratings. He had recently purchased the Long-EZ aircraft and had taken a half-hour checkout flight with the aircraft the day before the accident. The NTSB cited Denver's unfamiliarity with the aircraft and his failure to have the aircraft refueled as causal factors in the accident. Denver was the sole occupant of the aircraft. Prior to the accident, the FAA had learned of his failure to abstain entirely from alcohol subsequent to a prior drinking problem, and since his medical certification was conditional on this, a determination was made that he was not qualified for any class of medical certification at the time. At least a third-class medical was required to exercise the privileges of his pilot certificate. There was no trace of alcohol or any other drug in Denver's body at autopsy, however. Dental records were used to confirm the pilot of the Long-EZ as Denver.

Upon announcement of his death, Governor Roy Romer of Colorado ordered all Colorado flags to be lowered to half-staff to honor Denver. He was cremated alongside his 1910 Gibson guitar that his grandmother had given him, and subsequently inspired much of his legacy. Denver's life was celebrated at funeral services at Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Colorado on October 17, 1997. His ashes were scattered in the Rocky Mountains. Further tributes were made at the following Grammys and Country Music Association Awards. Denver's final album, All Aboard! consisted of old fashioned swing, big band, folk, bluegrass and gospel styles of music woven into a theme of railroad songs. All Aboard! won a posthumous Best Musical Album For Children Grammy, a fitting end to Denver's career.

Grammy Awards

* Best Musical Album For Children, 1997, "All Aboard!"
* Grammy Hall of Fame Award, 1998, "Take Me Home, Country Roads"

American Music Awards

* Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist, 1975, 1976
* Favorite Country Male Artist, 1976
* Favorite Country Album, 1976, "Back Home Again"

Country Music Association Awards

* Song of the Year, 1975, "Back Home Again"
* Entertainer of the Year, 1975

Academy of Country Music Awards

* Album of the Year, 1974, "Back Home Again"

Emmy Awards

* Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special, 1975, "An Evening with John Denver"

Other recognition

* Poet Laureate of Colorado, 1977
* People’s Choice Award, 1977
* Carl Sandburg’s People’s Poet Award, 1982
* NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, 1985
* Albert Schweitzer Music Award, 1993
* Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1996
* Rocky Mountain High declared state song of Colorado, 2007

Photo from Wikipedia

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John Denver website

Clips of his songs

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