Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. was born December 31, 1943 in Roswell, New Mexico.
With his father in the Air Force, the family traveled throughout young Johnís childhood. His father, "a very modest man," later taught his son to fly, which had been Johnís dream since childhood. In 1965, after studying architecture at Texas Tech, he headed west to pursue a career in folk music.
Denver's rise to fame began when he was discovered in a Los Angeles night club. He initially joined the Back Porch Majority, a nursery group for the renowned New Christy Minstrels but, tiring of his role there, left for the Chad Mitchell Trio. There, he forged a reputation as a talented songwriter. After the departure of the last original member, the trio became known as Denver, Boise and Johnson, but their brief lifespan ended when John embarked on a solo career in 1969.
Denver wrote "Leaving On A Jet Plane," which was an international hit for the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary and which was the highlight of his own debut album, RHYMES AND REASONS.
Subsequent albums, TAKE ME TO TOMORROW and WHOSE GARDEN WAS THIS, garnered only mild attention. It was not until the release of POEMS, PRAYERS AND PROMISES that the singer enjoyed popular acclaim when "Take Me Home, Country Roads" reached number 3 in the U.S. (It also became a UK Top 20 hit for Olivia Newton-John in 1973.)
The song's undemanding simplicity established a light, almost naive style, reinforced by the albums AERIE and ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH. "I'd Rather Be A Cowboy" (1973) and "Sunshine On My Shoulders" (1974) were both gold singles, while a third million-seller, the sweetly romantic "Annie's Song," secured Denver's international status and topped UK charts that same year. The tune subsequently became a standard and earned James Galway, the classical flautist, a UK number 3 hit in 1978.
Further U.S. chart success for Denver came in 1975 with two number 1 hits, "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" and "I'm Sorry." Denver's status as an all-round entertainer was enhanced by many well-received television specials. Gold records for AN EVENING WITH JOHN DENVER and WINDSONG ensured that 1975 was an extremely successful year. Denver later observed, "I never worked to create a hit. I always wanted to write good songs that have a message in them. I was real lucky that I became so popular. Success comes and go in this business. If you survive the bad times, the good will come back."
All in all, Denver had 14 gold and eight platinum albums in the United States and was popular around the world. According to Sony Records, Denver's current label, he is one of the five top-selling artists in the history of the music industry. In addition to music and television awards, Denver also received recognition from several environmental groups for his advocacy of his beloved Rocky Mountains. Denver lived in Aspen from the early 1970s but also owned a home on the Monterey Peninsula near San Francisco.
In 1974, then-Colorado Governor John Vanderhoof named Denver the state's Poet Laureate. Denver was also an actor with an extremely likable on-screen persona. His movie "Oh God!" won him surprised critical acclaim and many more fans around the world.