Now that we’ve made it through the Holiday Season and those pesky Mayans seemed to have missed the mark once more it’s time for something new here at WMMCM. We’re going to be heading in a slightly different direction in the days to come. While not abandoning the classic rock we love so dearly we have decided to get a bit more down in the dirt so to speak.
With all that has been happening in music these past few years we’ve felt a little limited in what we were able to write and argue about so, the door is swinging open quite a bit further. Starting today we are going to comment about pretty much any form of music that strikes our fancy from our beloved classic rock all the way to whatever the heck it is that Taylor Swift really does. (Other than serial dating.)
So with out further adieu, we will tip our hat to a guy who was on the edge of stardom as a pop singer after writing one of the most successful and memorable singles of the 1960′s who then became an actual pop superstar while somehow not ever really doing any pop music.
That can only be John Denver.
As even most diehard rock n’ rollers know, John Denver became a true superstar for many years in the 1970′s. What they may not know is that Denver’s first real brush with fame came in 1967 when the – then – major folk act, Peter, Paul & Mary recorded Denver’s ballad. In fact “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was Peter, Paul & Mary’s biggest hit and only number one single in a career that continued until Mary Travers’ death in 2009.
When the young and quite unknown John Deutschendorf wrote “Leaving on a Jet Plane” in 1966, he was the new guitarist and lead singer for the Chad Mitchell Trio. The Chad Mitchell Trio was a folk act that had been doing reasonably well in the confused times of the mid-60′s when rock and folk mixed easily before the great musical changes that occurred a few years later when hard rock and heavy metal made folk all but irrelevant to most young listeners.
Folk, didn’t really die or go away, it just very quietly morphed into the roots of the singer/songwriter movement that was so popular in the early 1970′s. Along the way something extraordinary happened to the newly christened John Denver. By 1971 and the release of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Denver was one of the biggest stars in the country. Denver would follow over the next five years with three number one albums and twelve number one single chart appearances.
The odd thing was, that John Denver was never really considered a country artist at the time.
With his squeaky clean image and boyish, almost cartoonish looks, Denver was never taken quite seriously by the country music establishment. He was a pop star and that guy who sang with the Muppets – long before that was considered cool – by anyone not a thirteen year old.
Denver, to his credit, just kept writing great songs and singing them all over the world selling between 35 and 40 million albums along the way.
Another way in which John Denver was never quite given the credit due to him was in the quality of his singing. Denver always had a wonderful way of delivering his lyrics. His delivery was always powerful when needed while still maintaining a closeness to his listener that felt like a conversation with a good friend. While the music industry never warmed to Denver, his audience certainly did.
John Denver always sounded like he was talking directly to you when he sang. Much better singers than Denver never came close to the level of comfort and familiarity that Denver made his career with. That easy friendship with his audience made him a star.