Monday, September 23, 2013

Memories of John Denver

Is music a major part of your life?  I want to be able to listen to music wherever I am—in my office, in the car, or in the living room as I read the Sunday paper.  I may listen to different genres depending on my location or mood, but whatever form it takes, it’s always been a huge part of my life.

When I’m in the car, I’m a button puncher, so I hear a variety of rock from the 50’s through today, and I love it all.  At home, I have a CD / iPod player in my office and Pandora on the TV in the living room along with way too many CDs from rock to classical to show tunes with a bit of country sprinkled in. My husband thinks music really did die when Buddy Holly did, so his collection is a bit different from mine.
Music evokes memories of different times in my life. A song can remind me of high school or college or a trip with friends. I can hear music from Dirty Dancing and vividly recall seeing it with friends on a trip to Myrtle Beach. When I hear a song from Animal House, I remember that I first saw it in on a rainy day in Knoxville when I was there to attend a Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech football game.
Imagine, then, the memories and feelings that can spring from a 90 minute play aptly named John Denver, Almost Heaven. My husband, a friend and I saw the play at a local theater this past weekend and were enthralled. We heard 25 John Denver songs sung by a quintet of musicians playing guitar, fiddle, banjo, bass and piano.  Sprinkled among the songs was just enough commentary to remind you of different stages in John Denver’s short life.
I had forgotten, if I ever knew, that his song Rocky Mountain High was controversial because critics thought he was praising marijuana, when in fact, it was all about clean living in the Rocky Mountains. I learned that Take Me Home, Country Roads was his first billboard hit, debuting at number 99 when the Temptations’ Imagination was at number one and eventually climbing to number two, only topped by How Can You Mend a Broken Heart by the Bee Gees.
The resounding rendition of Grandma’s Feather Bed reminded me that I first heard it on the one and only John Denver album I owned back in the 70’s, an album I played over and over.  The one song I missed in the show was Follow Me, which was always one of my favorites.  I even liked his duet with Placido Domingo in 1980, Perhaps Love. Of course, Placido Domingo wasn’t in the show, but the song was.
It was bittersweet listening to his tunes, and I couldn’t help but think that he died too young in 1997, only in his early 50’s. I can imagine him still with us today, perhaps doing PBS specials, with his same distinctive hair style, only in silver.
So, today I’ve set the iPod in my office to play my four CD set of John Denver songs.  And, as I did with my first John Denver album, I’ll probably play it over and over for the next few days...with a smile on my face. 

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