John Denver (December 31, 1943 - October 12, 1997), born Henry John Deutschendorf, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and sometimes actor.
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 was born in Roswell, New Mexico, lived most of his adult life in Aspen, Colorado and died off the coast of Monterey, California while piloting a Rutan Long-EZ, an experimental fiberglass airplane. Denver's plane had the fuel tank selector located behind his seat and it is believed he lost control while trying to engage the secondary fuel tank.
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.
After an enjoyable experience as a guest on The Muppet Show, he recorded two Muppets 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 '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, "Let This Be a Voice", composed while rafting along the Colorado River with his son and young daughter. (Denver adopted 2 children with his ex-wife, Annie Martell and had a daughter with his second wife, Cassandra Delaney.)
The mass media published inconsistent versions for the cause of the untimely plane crash. There were multiple, serial causes of the crash. First, it is believed that the aircraft completed takeoff with the fuel selector set to an empty tank, so that only the small amount of fuel in the fuel lines was available to the engine. Second, the design of the aircraft is such that the fuel selector is difficult to reach, being behind the left shoulder of the pilot. Third, on Denver's aircraft, the fuel selector handle had been replaced with a Vise Grips, complicating operation of the selector further. Finally, due to Denver's preoccupation with the fuel selector, the aircraft entered a stall, and subsequently, a spin, both conditions of which the Long-EZ is more unforgiving than aircraft of more conventional design. Although an eyewitness stated that she heard a pop and saw a puff of smoke.