John DenverJohn Denver (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997), born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. Denver died at the age of 53 off the coast of Monterey, California while piloting a Rutan Long-EZ, an experimental fiberglass airplane.

John Denver was born in Roswell, New Mexico. His father, Henry Deutschendorf, Sr., was an Air Force officer and flight instructor. Denver was born while his father was stationed at the Roswell Army Air Field. He grew up on a number of military bases in the American southwest. Denver attended high school in Fort Worth, Texas and later enrolled at Texas Tech where he was a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.

His introduction to playing music came at the age of twelve when his grandmother gave him a 1910 Gibson acoustic guitar. Denver began performing at local clubs while in college. He dropped out of college in 1964 and moved to Los Angeles to join the Chad Mitchell Trio, a folk group. He left the group, by then known as Denver, Boise and Johnson, in 1969 to pursue a solo career.

That same year he released his debut LP, Rhymes and Reasons. Within the next four years, albums such as Whose Garden Was This, Take Me to Tomorrow, and Poems, Prayers and Promises established him as one of America's popular recording stars.

Denver had a successful singing and songwriting career, and a minor career as an actor—his most notable film credit being in 1977's Oh, God! opposite George Burns. In 1994 Denver wrote an autobiography entitled Take Me Home. He moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1970 following his first solo success with song "Leaving on a Jet Plane".

Denver was recognized not only for his musical ability but also for his humanitarian work. He worked extensively on conservation projects and helped to create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He also founded his own environmental group called the Windstar Foundation. Denver had a keen interest in the causes of and solution to hunger, and visited Africa during the 1980s to witness first-hand the suffering caused by starvation and also to work with African leaders towards a solution. Denver testified alongside Frank Zappa and Dee Snider on the topic of censorship during a PMRC hearing in 1985.
John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together
John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together

After an enjoyable experience as a guest on The Muppet Show, he recorded two Muppet television specials: John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979) and John Denver and the Muppets: Rocky Mountain Holiday (1982).

Defying all conventional labels, John Denver held a singular place in American music: a songwriter whose immensely popular work was suffused with a deep and abiding kinship with the natural world. Songs such as 'Take Me Home, Country Roads', 'Leaving on a Jet Plane', 'Rocky Mountain High' are popular the world over. His songs are characterised by their sweet melodies, elegant guitar-strumming and his soulful rendition of the lyrics. He became one of the few western singers widely known in the non-European world including Africa, India and South-East Asia.

In the months just prior to his death in a plane accident in 1997 at the age of only 53, Denver was filming an episode of the Nature series, centering on the natural wonders that inspired many of his best-loved songs. The result is a poignant and melodic film that records his final journeys into the wilderness and contains his last song, "Yellowstone, Coming Home", composed while rafting along the Colorado River with his son and young daughter.

Denver had two passions in life: song, and flying. An experienced pilot, Denver owned and flew his own Lear Jet, gliders, flew aerobatically, and even had some time in an F-15. However, it was this passion for the air that cost Denver his life when he crashed his newly acquired Rutan Long-EZ aircraft into the ocean on October 13, 1997.

The mass media published inconsistent versions for the cause of the crash where in fact there were multiple, serial causes of the crash (as is commonly the case in aircraft accidents), which ultimately reduce to pilot error in not adequately preparing for the flight in the unfamiliar aircraft, and pilot error when attempting to switch to the right tank and inadvertently putting the aircraft into a steep bank.