This past October marked two decades since the tragic death of John Denver. His music and message to the world is more timely than ever, while his legacy and the words he left behind continue to be a reason to celebrate. His hits that topped the charts in the 1970s remain popular, outlasting trends and tastes, and speaking to universal audiences young and old. His life work as a singer, songwriter, actor, photographer, humanitarian and environmentalist continues to stay relevant in our lives today.
“Music makes pictures and often tells stories”
My life work in children’s publishing led me to a collaboration with John Denver and his music. I had the vision to adapt his song lyrics as texts for beautiful illustrated picture books. To quote him, “Music makes pictures and often tells stories.”
I was able to pitch the concept to John prior to his passing. He loved the idea! When we suddenly lost him, I first doubted the project could happen without his direct support. But fate, passion and some luck led me to John’s close friend and business manager, Harold Thau. I visited Hal at his Aspen home and in Manhattan, and we committed to bringing the John Denver picture books into reality.
Enter Cherry Lane Music/RCA, publishers Glenn Hoveman and Muffy Weaver at Dawn Publications, illustrators Christopher Canyon and Janeen Mason, writers and musicians Bill Danoff and Jim Connor, John’s extended family, and the role call was complete.
From our combined efforts, the first title in the “JD Music Makes Pictures” series was published in 2003. “Sunshine On My Shoulders” was followed by “Ancient Rhymes,” “Take Me Home Country Roads,” “Grandma’s Feather Bed,” and “For Baby, For Bobbie.” (Hardcover copies contain musical CD of Denver’s recording; softcover available. “Ancient Rhymes” hardcover/CD only; “For Baby, For Bobbie” softcover only.)
His lyrics continue to promote environmental preservation, inclusion, human compassion, spirit and peace.
Now John Denver’s music rocks for new generations with books selling in many countries. His work lives on. “Rocky Mountain High” (Colorado) and “Country Roads” (West Virginia) are state songs, respectively. John became the first honoree for the Colorado Music Hall of Fame/Red Rocks Amphitheater (2011) and his star shines brightly on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2014).
More importantly, his lyrics continue to promote environmental preservation, inclusion, human compassion, spirit and peace.
On your next visit to Aspen, Colorado, be sure to visit the extraordinary John Denver Sanctuary where many of his songs are now inscribed on granite rock boulders bordering a peaceful path beside a pure mountain stream. A quintessential tribute.
Rock on, J.D.