John Denver (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997), born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was an American singer-songwriter, actor, activist, and poet. One of the most popular acoustic artists of the 1970s, Denver recorded and released around 300 songs, about 200 of which he composed. He was named Poet Laureate of Colorado in 1977. Songs such as "Leaving on a Jet Plane", "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "Rocky Mountain High", "Sunshine on My Shoulders", "Thank God I'm a Country Boy", "Annie's Song" and "Calypso" attained worldwide popularity.
Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was born in Roswell, New Mexico, to Erma Louise Swope and Lt. Col. Henry John Deutschendorf, Sr., an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (who set three speed records in the B-58 Hustler bomber and earned a place in the Air Force Hall of Fame), was of German ancestry, met and married his "Oklahoma Sweetheart", Denver's mother, who was Irish and German Catholic, and it was her mother who imbued Denver with his love of music. In his autobiography, Take Me Home, Denver described his life as the eldest son of a family shaped by a stern father who couldn't show his love for his children.
Because Denver's father was in the military, the family moved often, making it difficult for young John to make friends and fit in with people of his own age. Constantly being the new kid was agony for the introverted child, and he grew up always feeling as if he should be somewhere else, but never knowing where that "right" place was. While living in Tucson, Arizona, Denver was a member of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus for two years. Denver was happy living in Tucson, but his father was transferred to Montgomery, Alabama, then in the midst of the Montgomery boycotts. The family later moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where Denver graduated from Arlington Heights High School. Attending high school in Fort Worth was a distressing experience for the disenfranchised Denver. In his third year of high school, he borrowed his father's car and ran away to California to visit family friends and begin his music career. His father flew to California to bring him back, and Denver unhappily returned to finish high school.