Singer, songwriter, and musician John Denver (1943-1997) was born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. on this day in Roswell, New Mexico. The son of an Air Force pilot, Denver loved to sing as soon as he learned to talk. At age 12, his grandmother gave him her acoustic guitar.
He once said: "We learn in the presence of other generations. The old need to teach the young and the young need to teach the old."
With a wide smile and clarity in his tenor voice, Denver dominated pop and country music in the 70s. Beginning with Leaving On A Jet Plane (1967), a hit for Peter, Paul, and Mary, he wrote memorable, beautiful songs and sang them with sincere honesty, taking what he called "grace in every step."
Just listen to the soaring purity of Take Me Home, Country Roads (1971), Sunshine on My Shoulders (1971), Rocky Mountain High (1972), or Annie's Song (1974). His 1973 Greatest Hits album stayed on the charts for over three years, selling over 10 million copies.
"I live my life daily and reverently," he said, drawing inspiration from true love, nature, and his beloved Colorado. With boundless energy, he celebrated life with heartfelt attention, care, and dedication.
An environmentalist and humanitarian, his experience with French underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau inspired Calypso (1975). The singer donated all the song royalties to The Cousteau Society. He also co-founded Windstar Foundation, a non-profit education and research center.
He said, "People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same."
With a passion for flight, Denver unexpectedly died at age 53 when he crashed his experimental light plane into Monterey Bay, California. "I think I would most like to be remembered for the fact that I stood up for what I believe in," he said. "I spoke for it. I sang for it. I worked for the things I believe in."