3 Eternal Songs by John Denver that Have Stood the Test of Time

Whether playing a Christmas show with the Muppets or playing in front of thousands with an acoustic guitar, John Denver knew how to captivate and soothe. It’s like his audience was fresh bread and he was the butter. For the Roswell, New Mexico-born artist, delivering music in a way that felt fresh and yet classic at the same time was the draw.

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And along the way, Denver released some songs that have lived on well past his short 53 years on the planet. Here below, we wanted to explore three such songs that have stood the test of time. A trio of tunes that, well, are simply eternal.

[RELATED: John Denver’s Estate to Reissue ‘Rocky Mountain High’ LP to Celebrate 50th Anniversary]

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” from Poems, Prayers & Promises (1971)

Written by the trio of Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver, this song is a country classic. It almost seems like no human being could have written it. Rather, it was plucked from some divine scripture or the clouds. Nevertheless, this tune, which has been covered countless times, hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 the year it was released. It has since gone Platinum and been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. On the track, which celebrates rural areas and the state of West Virginia, Denver sings,

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads

“Thank God I’m a Country Boy” from Back Home Again (1974)

A lively track propelled by hand claps, Denver’s energized voice, and a jovial fiddle, this song celebrates the rural farm life. Denver, whose name recalls a city, preferred the natural surroundings—a river, some green grass, the mountains. With acoustic guitars to bolster the opening instrumentation, Denver soars on the song written by John Martin Sommers, creating an anthem for those who enjoy the country living he helped put into popular culture. On the track, he sings,

Well life on the farm is kinda laid back
Ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack
It’s early to rise, early in the sack
I thank God I’m a country boy

Well a simple kinda life never did me no harm
A raisin’ me a family and workin’ on the farm
My days are all filled with an easy country charm
Thank God I’m a country boy

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” from Rhymes & Reasons (1969)

Along with the natural world, Denver loved planes. Particularly, he loved flying them. Sadly, that’s how he passed away, in a plane crash on October 12, 1997. But on this song, which he wrote, Denver got to highlight his love while also writing a mournful tune about departure. He originally wrote it in 1966 and it was called then “Babe I Hate to Go.” He shared it on his debut demo John Denver Sings. But it was later released on his debut LP Rhymes & Reasons in 1969. Around that same time, it was also covered by the famed folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. On the lamenting song, Denver sings,

All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin’
It’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’
He’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so lonesome
I could die

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

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Photo by Tony Russell/Redferns

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