Poems and prayers and promises

March 4, 2016

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A photo I took along Monterey Bay not too far from Lovers Point. The bench and flowers memorialize someone who died. But today, I am remembering John Denver.

Laid low with a sinus infection I was perusing my extremely long Netflix list and decided to click on a documentary about the late John Denver.

His Take Me Home Country Roads came out the year before M. and I married the first time and was standard fare on jukeboxes the next year. Some 1300 miles from home, living in married students’ housing in Tallahassee, Fla. I remember sitting in a bar eating and drinking with the three or four other couples that lived in our row. The song played and we sang it loud, some of us with tears in our eyes, because we were all away from home. Of course, only a few of us would take a country road home, but the sentiment was the same. We were so young and we couldn’t even imagine where our lives would take us.

I see nothing wrong with sappy.

Yes, rock critics made fun of Denver for being overly sentimental, but I rather liked him. We remember him for the beautiful songs he sang about Colorado–Rocky Mountain High is a classic. He built a home in Aspen when it was still pretty much untouched and unspoiled and was unabashed in his love for the outdoors. But he had so many beautiful melodies and lyrics.  Many, many hits at that time.

John-DenverWhat many people have forgotten is that he was one of the very first musician-celebrities to use his fame to help causes. The proceeds from his song, High Calypso, went to the Cousteau Foundation and he started The Hunger Project as part of his mission to help feed children here and globally.

John always felt close to my heart because for a while he lived –and then he died– on the Monterey peninsula. From the first time I laid eyes on this beautiful part of California in December 1984, I loved it.  It’s a place of peace for me, where my spirit is always soothed. I was never as happy living anywhere as I was in the few years I lived in that area. And several of my favorite photographs of my father were taken when he and I went walking along Monterey Bay.  A couple of the photos were taken at Lovers Point.

He died at Lovers Point

Lovers Point is where Denver’s experimental light aircraft went down in a freak scenario in October of 1997.  I remember hearing the news with disbelief. He was an experienced pilot–his father was a famous military pilot who taught him to fly young. John once told a musician friend that if it were his time to go, it would be ok if he went in his plane, he loved flying that much.

John was 53 when he died and his star had been dimming for some time. But in the 1970s, he was quite the singer-songwriter in a genre that was mostly folk, but cleaner and sweeter. If that’s possible.

There isn’t a time I walk or drive along Monterey Bay near where his plane went down that I don’t think of him.  Looking around, I wonder how many others looking out over the water remember him.

I like to think maybe a few.

This is one of my favorite of his songs. I love what it says–“how sweet it is to love someone/how right it is to care”.  As it turned out, it’s a fitting and poignant musical epitaph. Want to hear it? It’s below the lyrics. It’s lovely.

Poems & Prayers & Promises

I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time, all the things I’ve done and how it’s been.
And I can’t help believing in my own mind, I know I’m gonna hate to see it end.

I’ve seen a lot of sunshine, slept out in the rain, spent a night or two all on my own.
I’ve known my lady’s pleasures, had myself some friends, spent a time or two in my own home.

I have to say it now, it’s been good life all in all, it’s really fine to have a chance to hang around.
and lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire
while all my friends and my old lady sit and pass a pipe around.

And talk of poems and prayers and promises and things that we believe in.
How sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care.
How long it’s been since yesterday, what about tomorrow
and what about our dreams and all the memories we share?

Days they pass so quickly now, the nights are seldom long.
Time around me whispers when it’s cold.
The changes somehow frightens me, still I have to smile. It turns me on to think of growing old.

For though my life’s been good to me there’s still so much to do.
So many things my mind has never known.
I’d like to raise a family, I’d like to sail away and dance across the mountains on the moon.
I have to say it now, it’s been good life all in all, it’s really fine to have a chance to hang around.
and lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire
while all my friends and my old lady sit and pass a pipe around.

And talk of poems and prayers and promises and things that we believe in.
How sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care.
How long it’s been since yesterday, what about tomorrow
and what about our dreams and all the memories we share?

40 comments on “Poems and prayers and promises
  1. candy says:

    I enjoyed John Denvers music, sappy he wasn’t. Beautiful poem.

  2. Will add that documentary to the Netflix list. (And Monterey to the bucket list!) I remember reading that John Denver’s military father vehemently disapproved of his son’s career.

  3. Joan Stommen says:

    Choked me up reading about John…..my all time favorite sweet, sentimental songs. Jim and I drove through the Rocky Mountains one summer….the 13ers…or fourteeners? they’re called. We played Rocky Mountain High on repeat and sang it loud with the windows down! I’m putting his CD on right now…..beautifully written memories and tribute, Carol!

  4. Kaley says:

    Definitely beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Ellen Dolgen says:

    I will definitely add this one to my list! I love songs, movies, books that help us feel something loving and sweet.

  6. Shanna says:

    I remember listening to John Denver growing up. I loved his songs and how upbeat they were.

  7. Barbara says:

    I cried when I heard of his passing. We had just spent time in Pacific Grove and Monterey where he crashed. It was way too soon. I wonder if his music would have changed over time or if he would have stuck to writing and singing what he felt in his heart.
    On a lighter note…Saturday Night in Toledo Ohio is spot on! I grew up there and he hit that nail on the head!

  8. Hannah Courtney says:

    I have never heard of him, but I do love Netflix. I have added this to my list, thank you so much!

  9. I too enjoyed – and still enjoy – his music. Beautiful post and thank you for sharing!

  10. JG says:

    How right it is to care………… loved the honesty and pureness of his songs… that was
    my generation. Wonder what he would think about the world today.

  11. Awwww…this is so sweet—I LOVED John Denver’s music!

  12. Rena says:

    I have always loved John Denver. I actually have this on CD. I hadn’t listened to it in so long. I think I’ll dust it off and go for a drive in the Blue Ridge Mtns. another love of his that is closer to my side of America. Thanks for the beautiful reminder. He was a gentle, loving soul and I’ve always thought the world lost a National Treasure when he passed over.

  13. Amy says:

    Hi Carol,
    What a beautiful post! I have never been to Monterrey but I can picture it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on John Denver’s music and his life. I have always loved his songs and felt his soulful joy in life.

  14. When I started high school John Denver was a major star. I loved his music, often feeling that he was writing my own feelings, or at least feelings I could relate to. His words truly express my thoughts now. I also love I AM THE EAGLE….it makes me want to soar! And of course, as a diver and ocean conservationist advocate, High Calypso is a song I love to sing. Thank you for reminding us how much we cared about the life of John Denver.

  15. Jenny says:

    I’m not familiar with the musician, but I do love sappy music 🙂

  16. what a beautiful song. I hadn’t heard it before.

  17. And who could forget “Sunshine on My Shoulders” and “Annie’s Song”? His music was an interesting mix of folk and country. I didn’t care for “Grandma’s Feather bed,” though. Just a little too Hee Haw for me. I think my all-time favorite was “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” though. When I was a homesick, very young single parent driving across the state to visit my mom and dad, I used to play that song. Ah. Memories.

  18. Nancy Hill says:

    I always liked him too. Sappy but he captured a sense of hope and melancholy that was my youth.

  19. There’s something to be said about sappy. John Denver’s music brings back so many memories, and now I can’t get Take Me Home Country Roads out of my head.

  20. Elena Peters says:

    I love love love John Denver. Many of his songs bring me to tears, even the not sad ones. His voice was so pure and so honest. Thanks for sharing those memories on #blogsharelearn.

  21. Starr says:

    So many things I didn’t know about John Denver! What a great post and lovely tribute. I’ve got Country Roads stuck in my head now!

  22. I’ve always enjoyed John Denver’s music (I do find it a bit corny, but still appreciate it), and I had no idea about his life story. I think he did have a deep appreciation for natural beauty and for people too.

  23. Carolann says:

    I love your tribute to him, Carol. He was amazing and I loved his music and will always have fond memories of him. Love that poem too.

  24. Sage says:

    Such a beautiful photo you took! Sometimes, you’ve just gotta have sappy. Nothing wrong with that 🙂

  25. Jennifer says:

    Growing up, I was always into rock and blues, but had a secret love for some of John Denver’s songs. A friend dragged me to one of his concerts and I reluctantly went (what if someone saw me?) Turns out to have been the best concert I’ve ever been too. We were sitting in nosebleed seats, but he played to everyone, spending time in each corner of the stage so that everyone felt involved.

  26. Rosey says:

    My mom loved him. She probably still does. 🙂 I didn’t know he did so much good for charity, that’s awesome.

  27. Lisa Beach says:

    I forgot how much I liked his music until you mentioned some of his songs. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. 🙂

  28. Diane says:

    I absolutely loved John Denver! I was devastated when he died.
    The other night, I was sitting in the audience at a talent show and the person at the mike launched into “Country Roads’ and every single person in the audience joined in. Every single person. You don’t have to wonder what kind of an impact someone like him had on the world. You can witness it on a calm, moonlight night, floating far out in the Caribbean with a shipload of strangers . . .

  29. Leslie Rossi says:

    beautiful! lovely post

  30. Becki S says:

    My mom is originally from WV so we grew up singing this song. I didn’t know much about Denver so this was neat to read about. Thanks!

  31. I might have to check out this on Netflix. Sinus infections are the worst I hope you are feeling better Carol 🙂

  32. Elizabeth O says:

    John was a great soul who also made moving and prophetic music. Your tribute to him is very moving and a reminder of a sad time that left an impact on all his fans.

  33. Lisa Froman says:

    I will have to watch the documentary. I loved John Denver growing up and was fortunate to see him in concert once. Love!

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