John Denver, 1943-1997

Dateline: 10/31/97

It might seem odd that a column devoted to World Music would spend time discussing the work of someone who both is American and performs in English. It might seem odd at any other time, true, but the world has recently lost a gifted singer, songwriter, and humanitarian. Someone whose work penetrated boundaries of culture, religion, color, language -- in short, everything that World Music encompasses.

I am talking about Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., better known to the world as John Denver. On October 12, he passed away in a tragic plane crash. His songs captured American life in a succinct and simple fashion, one which people could relate to, and one which remained constant throughout many changes in times and musical fashion. Denver was a songwriter who stayed true to his voice, despite those who complained his music was too trite and simplistic.

I grew up listening to folk music of all kinds, and was only recently getting into Denver's work. I regret I shall never see him in concert, something which my lifelong fan friends hail as life changing experiences. In a way, Denver represented much of the good in life -- the good which always flies away too soon.

Of course, many fan memorials have sprung up all over the Web. Some of the notable ones include Rocky Mountain High, which is known by Internet saavy Denver fans as the Internet Fan Club. Run by Emily Parris for several years now, the fan club sends a monthly newsletter via email, and has archives of articles, lyrics, other web sites, and anything else Denver related. In the past few weeks the site has changed, putting memorial information first, with information on where to send condolences to the family.

Cold Nights in Canada is the Canadian John Denver fan club, and is run by Tim Aucoin of Calgary. Here you can find extensive information about Denver's more recent releases and Greatest Hits collections -- and yes, many tributes by fans.

In the UK, Free Spirit is the fan club, and is very colorflly laid out with frames and indexes. An interactive memorial site can be found here, with a form to add your comments. Finally, there is always my modest memorial site welcomes memories, poetry, and prayers. There are also some photos and celebrity quotes.

Another site that has many beautiful tributes to Denver, although it is not a Denver site in particular, is The Windstar Foundation, an environmental education organization founded by Denver, and reveals a lot about what the man stood for.

One thing is for certain -- music will never die. "Though the singer is silent, there still is the truth in the song" ("On the Wings of a Dream"). Denver's music will live on until the end of time.

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