Sunday, April 07, 2013

You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone

John Denver took a great deal of musical criticism for his music. It always seemed so sweet and simple. He had that kind of a voice that to many he sounded fake, saccharine, simplistic. Perhaps some of it was also the fact that he first came along in the time of activism for peace, etc and he just didn't seem to meet THAT folk standard. Or maybe he seemed to "pop-"like. Too sentimental- and didn't make any excuses for it. Or even, perhaps, he was too successful and musicians like him are supposed to struggle.

I didn't know it at the time, but I saw him in the very first concert I attended in college. He had replaced Chad Mitchell in the activist folk-music group, The Mitchell Trio. I'd like to say my musical radar picked up what an incredible musician and future star he was. But I didn't.

Here's a snip of a PBS special a number of years ago when the Trio reunited and John was part of it.

John Denver died in an airplane accident in October 1997 at the age of 53. Today he would be 69, turning 70 at the end of the year!

A new album has come out. The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver. (iTunes link.) I was listening to it the other evening. Groups like My Morning Jacket, Old Crow Medicine Show, Train, along with Dave Matthews, Blind Pilot, Josh Ritter and Emmylou Harris bring new life to some of Denver's timeless music. I was struck by the songs in a new way. Time- that great leveler- or perhaps that great magnifying glass- has leveled many of us and magnified the music of Denver. Blind Pilot's The Eagle and the Hawk along with Old Crow Medicine Show with Back Home Again give a deeper perspective to the music. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes close out the album with a foot-tapping and strumming alt-country Wooden Indian. Some may not like all of the interpretations, but it does remind us of Denver's versatility and lyricism. He may have been more a poet than we remember, more a visionary than we saw. It is a fine tribute and expands Denver's reach in a new day.

Since the album has just come out, I couldn't find any You Tube videos of these cuts. So, instead, why not go back to Denver himself.

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