John Denver Sunday, July 23, at Riverfront Park
As I sat in my beach chair in the Lilac Bowl, I tried to imagine that I’d never heard of John Denver. I tried to forget that he was Mr. Earth Savior, that he had a little drinking-and-driving problem, and that he once came across as a Rocky Mountain phony.
I tried to imagine that he carried no baggage from the ‘70s.
And you know what? It worked. What I heard was simply a fine musician with a strong, pure, clean voice who writes vivid and poetic lyrics. What I heard was a man who has a knack for writing and singing a beautiful love song.
I enjoyed this pleasant evening at Riverfront Park more than I would have imagined. For one thing, Denver refrained from delivering any holier-than-thou speeches about saving the planet, or about how caring he is. For another thing, his song selection was outstanding and often pleasantly surprising.
For instance, he sang the song “Today” (“as the blossom still clings to the vine”), a song not associated with Denver, but a folk hit for the New Christy Minstrels in 1964.
And then Denver followed that with a decent version of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” one of the all-time great Western story songs.
Mostly, he sang his own songs, some of which rank up there as folkpop standards: “Annie’s Song,” “My Sweet Lady” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” He also did fine versions of two songs that resonate strongly here in our quarter of the country, “Wild Montana Skies” and “Rocky Mountain High.”
The only truly bad song was “Amazon,” a monotonous and self-important song about the environment.
He did not do “Sunshine on My Shoulders” or “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” some would say mercifully.
But he did plenty of songs tailor-made for sitting on a blanket on a warm summer evening with your arms around your honey. The guy can sing a love song.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo