John Denver Saved My Life

I noted in a previous post that I would write about John Denver. So here we go.

John Denver saved my life.


OK, there is more to it. I spent my youth in the suburbs of Washington DC. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot just living there. But I was from Colorado. I spent my summers here and kinda like the kids in ‘A River Runs Through It’, when they were set loose by their father, the Colorado of my youth was one of magical discovery and freedom.

I idealized Colorado, but not by much. When things went bad in my parent’s marriage I was left to largely raise myself. I learned to cook at age 12 and do laundry and grocery shop and signed all the forms I needed a parent’s signature for at school until I failed out.

At that time, there was no cable or internet so entertainment was imagination and basic stuff. Once I fed myself in secret so my dinner would not be taken, especially since I paid for the food out of stolen money, I would retire to my bedroom and watch TV on an old Black and White. If I had a really bad day, I would put on a John Denver record and I would be transported back to Colorado. I could not wake the other resident in the house so I would put it on very quietly and sit right next to the speaker. I could almost hear the music and lyrics coming off the needle and record itself.

John Denver’s words about the majesty of the mountains and the birds in the skies took me where it was better and safer and I was no longer alone. One of my favorite activities when I was in Colorado, then and now, is to go into the mountains and lie on my back at night and see the incredible number of stars that you cannot see at sea level. There is no substitute for altitude.

I know the back story of most of John Denver’s most common songs. Some of his descriptions are of simpler times. Some are about simple moments. Both are needed and both I seek. When I need to escape or calm down or lower anxiety, I go back to my mountains. My favorite song is about simple love. I have struggled with that one.

So when I was a kid, seeking some hope about tomorrow. I turned to John Denver’s music and his songs about a simple yesterday. I hoped I would find some measure of that world I envisioned in his music and since then, or at least since I retired from racing, I have sought that world. I usually find my answers in altitude.


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