Publish date:
Updated on

John Denver born in New Mexico

John Denver, musician and actor, is born on this day in Roswell, New Mexico. Denver is remembered for the music he created, and for helping people begin thinking of the West as a pristine unspoiled wilderness rather than an area where cowboys, miners, and homesteaders earned their living.

Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., Denver was the son of an Air Force officer who moved his family repeatedly during Denver’s youth. After studying architecture at Texas Tech, Denver moved to Los Angeles in 1965 with dreams of becoming a successful folk singer. He gradually built up a reputation as a gifted songwriter and played in the Chad Mitchell Trio before embarking on a solo career in 1969.

Denver’s breakthrough as a singer-songwriter came with the 1971 hit, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which reached number three on the U.S. pop charts. Softening the often hard-edged rural working class themes of traditional folk music, Denver created a style that celebrated the natural world as a source of beauty and spiritual wisdom rather than a place where one farmed, mined, or cut timber. In tune with a larger national trend, Denver’s music suggested that the West was the heartland of environmental values. Denver even took his stage name from the capitol of Colorado, a state celebrated for its “New West” spirit, and built a home in the then-quaint Colorado ski town of Aspen, Colorado.

Denver’s evocation of a new environmental and spiritual understanding of the West reached its peak with his 1972 album, Rocky Mountain High; the title song of the album celebrated the mind-expanding power and spirituality of the Rockies. Denver also became active in environmental politics, and several environmental groups recognized his efforts to preserve wilderness areas in the Rocky Mountains. Although his singing career cooled in the less spiritually oriented decades that followed, Denver continued to work for environmental causes and participated in a 1995 WildLife Concert to support efforts to protect species and habitats around the world.

Denver had a passionate interest in flying, and piloted planes of all types and sizes throughout his life. While flying an experimental aircraft over Monterey Bay in October 1997, Denver lost control of the plane and crashed into the ocean, dying instantly. He was 53 years old.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Soviets test supersonic airliner

The Soviet Union’s TU-144 supersonic airliner makes its first flight, several months ahead of the Anglo-French Concorde. The TU-144 so closely resembled the Concorde that the Western press dubbed it the “Konkordski.” In 1962, 15 years after U.S. pilot Chuck Yeager first broke the more

Patriots defeated at Quebec

During the American Revolution, Patriot forces under generals Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery are defeated by the British defenders of the city of Quebec in Canada. On December 2, Arnold and Montgomery met on the outskirts of Quebec and demanded the surrender of the city. more

Panama Canal turned over to Panama

On this day in 1999, the United States, in accordance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, officially hands over control of the Panama Canal, putting the strategic waterway into Panamanian hands for the first time. Crowds of Panamanians celebrated the transfer of the 50-mile canal, more

Hungary declares war on Germany

On this day, the provisional government of Hungary officially declares war on Germany, bringing an end to Hungary’s cooperation—sometimes free, sometimes coerced—with the Axis power. Miklas Horthy, the anticommunist regent and virtual dictator of Hungary, who had once hoped to more

U.S. annual casualty figures down

The gradual U.S. withdrawal from the conflict in Southeast Asia is reflected in reduced annual casualty figures. The number of Americans killed in action dropped to 1,386 from the previous year total of 4,204. South Vietnam losses for the year totalled 21,500 men, while the more

Bloodiest year of the war ends

The bloodiest year of the war comes to an end. At year’s end, 536,040 American servicemen were stationed in Vietnam, an increase of over 50,000 from 1967. Estimates from Headquarters U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam indicated that 181,150 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese more

Plane carrying Roberto Clemente crashes

On December 31, 1972, an airplane chartered by the professional baseball player Roberto Clemente to bring food and other relief supplies to survivors of a recent earthquake in Nicaragua crashes shortly after takeoff from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Five people were killed in the more

Anthony Hopkins born

On this day in 1937, Anthony Hopkins, who will become known for playing one of the greatest villains in movie history, the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs and its two sequels, is born in Port Talbot, Wales. In addition to portraying Lecter, more

Subway vigilante turns himself in

Bernhard Goetz, the white man dubbed the “subway vigilante” after he shot four young black men on a New York City subway train, turns himself in at a police station in Concord, New Hampshire. Goetz claimed that the men, all of whom had criminal records, were trying to rob him and more

Battle of Parker’s Crossroads

On this day in 1862, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest narrowly escapes capture during a raid at Parker’s Crossroads in western Tennessee. Despite the close call, the raid was instrumental in forcing Union General Ulysses S. Grant to abandon his first attempt to capture more