John Denver: Country Boy (2013)


John Denver: Country Boy Storyline

A profile of the life and career of singer/songwriter John Denver.

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John Denver: Country Boy Movie Reviews

A must for fans

I’d started to watch this thinking it would be a television program featuring John Denver in sort of a concert. What I got was an hour-long biography, and I’m glad I saw it.

Yes, it did feature a lot of Denver’s music, but of course in segments interspersed with the voiceovers of the narrator and people from his live.

You get insight from Annie (of Annie’s Song), his second wife, his younger brother, his son, his second wife, Jerry Weintraub (who managed him for many years … and others.

You’ll find out things about his early years you probably didn’t know about, and sadly, also about his last years.

It’s an interesting and moving story.

An earnest attempt at a cumulative look at a man’s life and legacy

Steve Freer’s John Denver: Country Boy effectively provides the viewer with a brief but earnest documentary on the life of folk/soft-rock singer John Denver. In just sixty-minutes, it provides enough information to be considered a documentary predicated on facts rather than on emotions and specifics. We are taken through the early life of Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., who was born in New Mexico and spent his young life traveling from state-to-state with his parents. Deutschendorf wound up finding his talent with the guitar at a young age, eventually working with groups like The Chad Mitchell Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary, capitalizing off of his earnest talent and his sweet and mild voice.

Henry Deutschendorf eventually became “John Denver,” as he wrote a variety of songs that exhibited the find art of songwriting. Denver wrote what he saw in the world, expertly detailing mountain ranges, vast landscapes, and the beauties of the natural world in songs like “Calypso” and the beloved “Rocky Mountain High,” both of which amongst others topping the charts. His poetic songwriting led him to be one of the most well-known and commercially successful singers of the 1970’s, playing sold out concerts every weekend and garnering an enormous fanbase over a very small period of time.

Denver, however, was met with ridicule from music critics, something I wasn’t personally aware of until this documentary. Denver became a star during the awkward period of the old and the new, where the pop music and sweet, sentimental rifts were taking a back seat to the raucous rock and roll of Elvis Presley and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Singers like Bob Dylan were able to forge a name for themselves and become loved and cherished by rock critics, while Denver sat on the outside, criticized for his feel-good lyricism and his calming style of music, said to lack any kind of character or personality by one rock critic.

This was one of Denver’s many frustrations with his music career; he felt that while he was being insulted by critics, his fans were insulted as well, which only angered him more. On top of that, the 1980’s saw his popularity plummet, his name make headlines only for repeated drunk driving offenses, and the divorce from his wife Annie Martell, the subject his hit ballad “Annie’s Song.”

John Denver: Country Boy attempts to touch on all these bases, and for a documentary composed predominately of talking heads, archival footage, and songs put to scenic backgrounds, it works well in that it develops all the events it brings up. Denver’s brother Ron Deutschendorf and ex-wife Martell are interviewed, as well, with Martell bringing up a key point when the inevitability of Denver’s fate rolls around. “It was so hard to imagine him dead because he was always so alive,” she says, clearly recalling the kindred spirit reflected in Denver’s many works. Even Denver’s brother Ron gets faintly emotional when he talks about his brother’s fate, recalling the complete disbelief that he could die from such a routine flight, which Denver performed hundreds of during his training.

Even in present day, Denver doesn’t always seem to get the respect he deserves, not even from contemporary music critics, who often overlook his chapter. I recall asking for Denver’s greatest hits CD for my twelfth birthday and my aunt and cousin fighting over who was going to perform the “walk of shame,” as they put it, into Best Buy to purchase the CD for me, as if buying a John Denver at a Best Buy was the equivalent of walking into 7/11 on a Friday night and buying condoms. Is that any way to respect and honor such a unique talent?

Directed by: Steve Freer.

Moving artist, good story, strange omission

Loved the documentary. Amazed at his story. At the end, I was truly baffled by the complete omission of ANY mention of his huge hit movie role in Oh God. How do you just skip that?