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Rhymes & Reasons: The Music of John Denver

WOODY GUTHRIE CENTER

Rhymes & Reasons: The Music of John Denver


The work of celebrated singer, songwriter, actor, activist and humanitarian John Denver will be on display this fall at the Woody Guthrie Center. Curated by the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE, Rhymes & Reasons: The Music of John Denver opens with a special reception Aug. 31 and to the public Sept. 1.

With iconic songs and their soaring landscapes, Denver’s diligent activism and selfless humanitarian work, the exhibit will present the GRAMMY®-winning musician’s career through artifacts from the private collection of the John Denver estate. Some of the items to be displayed include:

  • Custom-designed stage costumes worn by Denver
  • The tuxedo he wore to host the 22nd Annual GRAMMY Awards® in 1979
  • His round, vintage “granny glasses”
  • Handwritten lyrics for his folk classic “Calypso,” among others
  • Guitars played by Denver
  • Photographs from his archive
  • Denver’s GRAMMY that he was awarded posthumously in 1997 for Best Musical Album for Children for All Aboard!
  • Other artifacts related to his humanitarian and environmental work

Bringing the work of John Denver to the home of Woody Guthrie’s archive highlights the connections between the two artists’ prolific writing and extensive activism, as well as a shared heritage: Denver’s parents and grandparents lived in Oklahoma.

“As a songwriter, social activist, and environmentalist, John Denver consistently worked to make positive changes in our world,” stated Woody Guthrie Center Executive Director Deana McCloud. “His life’s mission followed in Woody’s footsteps, and we are proud to be displaying this amazing exhibit in Woody’s home in downtown Tulsa.”

A representative of the family and guest curator of the exhibit, which was organized by the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, will present a discussion on Denver’s work during an opening reception for Woody Guthrie Center members and donors on Aug. 31. The exhibit opens to the public Sept. 1 and will be on display during normal hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, through 2017. The current exhibit, How Can I Keep From Singing: The Work of Pete Seeger, will close Aug. 20.

About John Denver John Denver was born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. on December 31, 1943 in Roswell, New Mexico. The son of a U.S. Air Force officer, Denver’s artistic journey began at age 11 when he was given his grandmother’s guitar. Denver eventually took guitar lessons and joined a boys’ choir, which led him at age 20 to pursue his dream of a career in music.

Denver experienced his first major break in the music industry when he was chosen from 250 other hopefuls as lead singer for the popular Mitchell Trio. Two years and three albums later, Denver had honed his considerable vocal talent and developed his own songwriting style. He gained recognition when his song “Leaving On A Jet Plane” was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, becoming their first and only No. 1 hit. As the Mitchell Trio disbanded, Denver was climbing up the pop charts as a solo act with songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again,” “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” and “Calypso,” solidifying his position as one of the top stars of the 1970s.

By his third album in 1970, Denver’s social and political leanings were defined more clearly. Denver was one of the first artists to share an environmental message through his music, beginning with the Tom Paxton-penned song “Whose Garden Was This?” This was the first in a long line of songs that he recorded about the environment. Denver contributed his talents to the benefit of many charitable and environmental causes and received numerous civic and humanitarian awards over the years. Fans responded to his heartfelt urgings about ecology, peace, and compassion that were consistently delivered in a gentle manner on his records and at live performances.

Denver earned a GRAMMY Award® in 1997 for Best Musical Album For Children his album All Aboard! In 1998, his hit song “Take Me Home, Country Road” was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. Denver won countless other awards for his outstanding musical achievements and contributed his talents to the benefit of many charitable and environmental causes, which lead him to receive numerous civic and humanitarian awards over the years.

John Denver died tragically in a plane crash on October 12, 1997. He was survived by his brother Ron, mother Erma and three children, Zak, Anna Kate and Jesse Belle.

For more information about the exhibit or the Woody Guthrie Center, contact Deana McCloud at deana@woodyguthriecenter.org.