Saturday night, I reviewed “Country Roads,” a theme concert from the Buffalo Philharmonic that featured a five-piece band performing tunes by John Denver (above, in full Beastmaster mode) and Dan Fogelberg, with the orchestra fleshing things out. Other than reinforcing my feelings about both artists – Denver’s melodies are grand, timeless things, while Fogelberg’s are sopping loaves of Wonder bread – it got me feeling all defensive about one of my favorite country singers. So, here’s a list of reasons why John Denver deserves more cred than he typically gets:
1. His songs are audaciously simple. It ain’t easy to connect with listeners using basic language, and Denver does it as effectively as anybody, injecting warmth and truth into seemingly throwaway sentiments like “Sunshine on my shoulders/makes me happy.”
2. He’s so square, he’s cool. There’s never been anything hip about a guy with an acoustic guitar singing about mountains. Denver didn’t care, singing about dizzying natural highs with a passion that’s as refreshing as a gulp from a Rocky Mountain stream.
3. His love songs are untouchable. Whether it’s the swooning romance of “Annie’s Song” or the tender parental poetry of “For Baby,” Denver’s fusion of simple sentiments with soaring melodies make for unforgettable expressions of love.
4. He makes you sing along. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” could get a monk to break his vow of silence.
5. While hiking in West Virginia, a backwoods mystic (a.k.a. “mountain mama”) gave him an enchanted amulet on a golden necklace. It gave him the power to grow sexy hair and speak with the animals, after which he fell in love with a falcon named Stephanie (above).