Remembering John Denver: 1943-1997

John DenverBy Lynn R. Mitchell

It’s been 18 years since John Denver died.

He was a story teller, a master guitarist, a song writer, a singer … and his music still captures my heart today as he sings of the mountains and nature and youth and growing old and wheat fields and Colorado and Alaska and all the things I love. He was John Denver who died October 12, 1997, at the age of 53, in a plane crash off the coast of California. For me, that was the day the music died.

Even now, when I pull out my guitar, the first chords I strum are John Denver’s music … the songs I most often sing are his. Even though I disagreed with some of his politics, I never stopped loving his music. He took the ups and downs in his own life and put them into melodic, sometimes hauntingly emotional choruses that comforted the hurting souls of others … songs about love lost, then found … breakups and reconnecting … children … old cowboys … the ocean … flying … his beloved Rocky Mountains.


One got the sense there were inner conflicts with John … just listen to his music. But aren’t there inner conflicts with us all? He had a better way of expressing them … he bared his soul to those who listened.

But he had a playful side, too, as he would laugh and tells stories and have a grand old time at his concerts, enjoying the give-and-take with the audience. His later years seemed to be more reflective.

John Denver’s unexpected death stunned the world:

Upon announcement of Denver’s death, Colorado governor Roy Romer ordered all state flags to be lowered to half staff in his honor. Denver was cremated with the 1910 Gibson guitar, given to him by his grandmother, that had inspired much of his career. Funeral services were held at Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Colorado on October 17, 1997, being officiated by Pastor Les Felker, a retired Air Force chaplain. Later Denver’s ashes were scattered in the Rocky Mountains. Further tributes were made at the following Grammys and Country Music Association Awards.

My sister, who was living in Denver at the time, attended the memorial service which was a moving tribute to John Denver the musician, the man, the dad, the son.

John Denver. His music lives on.

Read more about John Denver’s life in my post, Remembering singer-songwriter John Denver on his New Year’s Eve birthday.

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