One of the most popular entertainers of the 1970s, Denver extolled the simple pleasures of the natural world in his songs.
Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. in 1943, John Denver scored a breakthrough when he replaced Chad Mitchell in the Chad Mitchell Trio, a popular attraction on college campuses and coffeehouses. He began to focus on writing songs, and other performers discovered his talents; Peter, Paul & Mary, the most popular folk group of the 1960s, had their first and only chart-topper with a cover of Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Two years later he had achieved stardom, playing to sold-out crowds and gaining international popularity with the tracks “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” For millions of fans, his skill at simple, melodic folk-pop, along with his wholesome looks and clean-cut appeal, made him one of the most beloved stars. John Denver’s Greatest Hits remained on the best-selling album charts for nearly three years. As an actor, he appeared opposite comedian George Burns in the film Oh, God! and he either starred or hosted in numerous television specials. In later years, he backed up his career as a renowned environmentalist and humanitarian. Denver, a longtime aviator, died in a plane crash in October 1997.