When I was first learning to play guitar in the late ‘70s John Denver was all over the radio. I think one of the first songs I performed around the campfire and youth group sing-a-longs was “Country Roads.” John’s clear tenor voice and intricate guitar work inspired me then and still does to this day. I can still remember the first time I played “Country Roads” and “Grandma’s Feather Bed” with an impromptu jam band at summer camp…we felt like kings of the world! I think I floated six inches off the ground for week after that!
Anyway, it wasn’t until recently that I learned the story behind the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Most people will associate the ‘60’s folk rock group Peter, Paul and Mary with the song. It was the group’s last major hit. It certainly isn’t news that artists record songs written by other people but what I found fascinating was that John Denver wrote, recorded and gave away that song under the title “Babe, I Hate to Go.” I’ll say that again: John spent his OWN MONEY to record the song along with 15 other tracks, pressed the recording to vinyl and gave it away to people he knew! The rest is history but I’m sure at the time John had no idea the impact that song would have on American pop culture.
As I reflect on my musical career at this point, I realize there is value in risk taking…creating art because it is what one is hard wired to do. No successful musician will thrive if they are not willing to go ‘all in’ for their craft. Sure, John Denver was in the right place at the right time so luck was a part of his success. Nor am I suggesting that one needs to be reckless or take unnecessary risks. But I have to admire the spirit that says, “I won’t let these songs stay in my own head even if I have to pay for everything and I might never see that money again!”
If you are a fan of good songwriting check out my latest CD “Sunshine State of Mind.” If you sign up for my email list I’ll send you the title track “Sunshine State of Mind” absolutely FREE! As always, I love to hear your thoughts so share away in the comments below!