Link: John Denver in Nashville
Before the show began, a man sitting in front of me was grumbling to his wife about her insistence they attend John's concert, but the minute Mr. Denver began performing, the guy in front of me was singing along, clapping his hands, cheering, jumping up and down, and thoroughly happy to be there!
That's how good John Denver was! He completely won over a skeptic and converted him into a fan.
I had my own close encounter with John Denver years ago when I was part of the press contingent in Florida that covered a Space Shuttle launch. The press is allowed to get much closer than the general public. There were a million spectators estimated to be in the area at the time, and it was a 7 a.m. launch. I had arrived in the afternoon the day before, amidst high security checkpoints that included military personnel armed with machine guns! We had to sign waivers stating that if we were killed, our families could not sue the government. I participated in a press conference with the astronauts, that was televised live around the world, during which I got to ask a question and was subsequently interviewed by foreign press about what Americans thought about the space program. We were told to wear long sleeve shirts because of the spray of sparks, but we still felt them on our faces. After the launch, when I returned to my car, it was covered with a strange kind of colored soot, that permanently pitted the finish on my car! (I wasn't too happy about that as I was driving my first Cadillac).
Anyway, on the morning of the launch, it was the most awesome spectacle I had ever witnessed. The roar of the fire shooting out of the bottom of this rocket as it took off was other-worldly and you could feel the concussion on your chest. Suddenly, as the shuttle was climbing, the wind shifted, and there was an announcement over the public address system for members of the press to take cover! This caused a stampede of people running toward me, and we all ran for cover in the press building to escape the acrid smoke that was quickly blowing in our direction.
Well, John Denver was standing somewhere in front of me, and -- true to form -- when the shuttle lifted off the launch pad, he yelled "FAR OUT!" Then he turned around to run and almost collided with me. We both side-stepped each other and laughed about it.
Years later I got the idea I wanted to do an interview with John Denver for my magazine. You may know that he was seriously considered on the short list of civilians who would be allowed to fly on a shuttle mission. John, despite how his life ended tragically in a plane crash, was a skilled pilot, even certified to fly jets.
Anyway, I made contact with his reps and a time was set up to interview him on the phone. (FYI, during the time Julie was in college in Minnesota, she knew John's girlfriend, who then became his first wife, Annie).
Just 3 days before I was scheduled to interview him, I was shocked late one night to read that a plane registered to John Denver was reported down, and they were trying to locate the singer to confirm that he was safe. But I had already had a terrible premonition about him earlier that day (!) which I shared with my wife and her sister, who was visiting. I told them I had the strong feeling that John Denver had been killed. But there had not been anything on the news about it at that time!
Sad to say, my premonition later turned out to be true.
I have been a member of his Rocky Mountain John Denver fan club for years, and admire him as one of the greatest talents America has ever produced. Not only was he an incredible song writer with a poet's soul, he was a committed environmentalist long before it became fashionable, and a genuinely nice guy. I have devoured the YouTube videos on him and would recommend to you a clip of him performing on Ralph Emery's "Nashville Now" show -- "A Country Girl In Paris." The strings on that live performance are just so beautiful and exciting to watch as well as listen to them play. (This is why I am so addicted to using Nashville strings on my overdubs, such as the 8 CD "The Great Jim Reeves" set).
Also pay attention to the song lyrics, that tell a story with such profundity but with also with such grace. John wrote both the words and the melody and I think it's a quintessential John Denver composition and performance. He was SO superb, and notice how he sang so effortlessly and joyfully, and used falsetto to hit those high notes for which he was famous.
There was nobody else like him and the gift of music he gave to the world is of immeasurable value. The fact he was disowned by his record label, RCA, demonstrates again the egregious stupidity of the people at the top of the big labels.
John's fans have never gotten over his loss, just like the fans of Karen Carpenter have never recovered from her premature death at such a young age. And it goes without saying Jim Reeves' fans are still lamenting his departure from this world. Why is it the greats have to die so young and meanwhile, the no-talent phonies are still reaping the hundreds of millions of dollars or living to a ripe old age despite no discernible talent beyond self promotion?
Click the link below to enjoy John's splendid singing on the Nashville TV show (which, strangely, has been posted by someone overseas with subtitles).
Link: John Denver in Nashville
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