Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. : A Lyric

On a run this morning, now that I’m largely over my bad cold, it was pre-dawn and the stars were brilliant overhead.  I had lots of trouble identifying any of my companion constellations, however, because there were bands of thin, wispy clouds that obscured some of the stars.  But the ones without any cloud interference were as bright as any time I’ve ever seen.

I was reminded of a line from an old John Denver (born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.) song, Rocky Mountain High:

The shadow from of the starlight / Is softer than a lullaby

Now, the music of John Denver, who died in 1997 in an ultralight plane accident, is probably largely unknown and unconnected to the youth of today, but he had a profound influence on my life.  His message of simple connection to nature resonated with me at a particular time in college when I was trying to put it all together. 

Later, many people—me included—soured on Denver when his marriage broke up in a very ugly and public way; his man-of-the people environmentalism was called into question by his installation of a large gas tank around the height of the gas shortage period in the 1970s; and he struggled with alcohol and DUIs.

Time has again mellowed me, and with today’s run, I again was thankful for the legacy of John Denver.  That lyric perfectly captured my moment with the stars this morning. 

Good people can do bad things, and bad people can do good things.  I think a quote from singer Kathy Mattea sums it up:

A lot of people write him off as lightweight, but he articulated a kind of optimism, and he brought acoustic music to the forefront, bridging folk, pop, and country in a fresh way.... People forget how huge he was worldwide.


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