Thursday, October 3, 2013

More Memories of John Denver

My recent blog post on John Denver made a few folks smile along with me, so I thought I’d reflect a bit more on his short life.  Of course, some of you youngsters may not think 53 counts as a short life, but it sure sounds short to me. 
My husband tells a surprising story about seeing John Denver perform in Clayton, Georgia in the late 80’s—a story I think says it all when it comes to what a generous and caring man John Denver was.  Back then, my husband was traveling every weekend to the North Carolina Mountains, where he was building a cabin.  Passing through the small mountain town of Clayton one afternoon, he saw a sign at the Clayton High School stadium announcing that John Denver would be performing that weekend.  He recalls thinking that some of the local folks might not even have known who John Denver was and that those who did know probably didn’t believe he’d actually be there.

It turns out Denver was nearby in Highlands, North Carolina filming a Hallmark movie, most likely Foxfire with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. The school was doing a benefit for a student who needed an organ transplant, and someone thought of asking John Denver if he would perform.  How many performers would have said yes?  Well, he did.
My husband decided a $5 ticket for the chance to see John Denver was a deal and was in the stadium watching a local band perform when up came a limo and out came John Denver carrying his guitar case.  He tuned up his acoustic guitar and played 20 songs or so on his own, and then invited the local band to join him.  It was a bit of a rough start, but he went on to do another 20 songs with them.  How gracious.  How giving.
I think the Muppets would have been proud of him.  Yes, he was on the Muppets, as were so many other entertainers, but the childlike joy he seemed to take in singing and entertaining somehow made him an especially fitting Muppets host. 
Listening to his song Poems, Prayers and Promises brings a sad smile to my face:
I've been lately thinking
About my life's time
All the things I've done
And how it's been
And I can't help believing
In my own mind
I know I'm gonna hate to see it end…
And I have to say it now
It's been a good life all in all
…It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my life's been good to me
There's still so much to do
Ah yes, a life cut short.  All these memories make me wish PBS would run their 2005 John Denver story again, so I could hear his friends and family reflect on his life and music.  It was a joy to see the first time and was what prompted my husband to give me the CD set of John Denver’s music.  Who knows? I may just have to purchase the PBS video, so I can continue smiling.