My Top 5 John Denver Songs
John Denver had a personality with a folksy, down-home vibe that carried over into his music. A prolific song writer and singer, he was the boy next door combined with a humanitarian, activist, and musician. Denver combined beautiful melodies with thoughtful lyrics that became popular quickly and were sung everywhere. Crossing over multiple genres, including bluegrass, pop, and country, Denver’s sound was relaxed enough for romantic slow dancing. His gentle, introspective style of acoustic guitar and pure vocals created a sound that endures today.
Denver enjoyed the height of his popularity in the early 1970s, at the end of the Vietnam War, and alongside changes in American culture from “hippie” to “disco.” Among the sounds of hard rock, arena rock, and funk, was the sound of John Denver.
His most popular songs were the ones that evoke emotion and make you pause to ponder life. My top five are:
A popular wedding song, “Annie’s Song” was written as a tribute to Denver’s first wife. Romantic and flowing, the song is full of words of love and dedication. Likely the way any woman would want their significant other to think of them, this song talks about his love in terms of the magic of true love. Denver’s lyrics describe a wellspring of emotion pouring out of his heart. Sentimental and touching, it is indeed one of the most romantic songs to come out of the 1970s.
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Many people have heard this song, not just a few times, but hundreds. Denver’s lyrics capture the wistful feeling of loss that a person experiences when leaving a loved one behind, whether temporarily or permanently. The singer feels lonely before he’s even gone.
Because of the way it touches the heart, the song has been covered by many other groups, such as Peter, Paul and Mary. Spanky and Our Gang, the Chad Mitchell trio, and even Aerosmith have also recorded it. Denver himself often sang it with accompanying guests such as Mama Cass .
Rocky Mountain High
An official song of Colorado, Denver speaks of his love for the state. The mountains themselves gave him an incredible feeling, but because of the word “high,” Denver’s song was banned in many places before he explained the lyrics were not about drug use. Instead, he sings of his sadness when they tore down a mountain to build civilization. Mainly, the song imparts the tranquility of being born again, when discovering the Rockies’ beauty. People connect with particular places, and there is no doubt that Denver was a Rocky mountain man.
Sunshine On My Shoulder
Written on a gray, dreary day in Minnesota, Denver longed to see the sun and wrote to feel better about where he was. A gentle melody and verses that alternate giving tribute to sunshine and paying honor to his loved ones makes the song romantic in a unique way. Denver refers to giving his loved one a sunshiny day; he shows a heart capable of sweeping, grand gestures of generosity.
A song about regret and the things that go wrong in a relationship, Denver sings that he is sorry about all he didn’t say and the lies he told. He says he’s even sorry about the “way things are in China,” adding weight to his meanings. Most of all, he says he feels sorry for himself that his love left. It’s an emotional expression many people share but don’t readily admit, even to themselves. When a relationship ends, people feel their own loss, kick themselves for mistakes made.
John Denver was a student of human nature. His songs reflect artistry of the spirit and the mind. He saw the deeper reasons for why people act the way they do, and he seemed to capture feelings in a few short verses. His talent for seeing into the soul made his songs lovely and melancholy at the same time.
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