American singer-songwriter John Denver plays his guitar circa 1980's.
Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images

15 John Denver Songs That Made Him a Crossover Country Icon

John Denver songs are a pillar of pop culture. As one of the world's most beloved performers and songwriters, Denver prided himself in his environmentalist and humanitarian work and traveled the world throughout his career. By the mid-'70s, Denver was one of the best-selling performers.

The world lost the legendary performer on Oct. 12, 1997 when Denver lost his life in a plane crash. He was 53.

Below, look back on Denver's legacy with 15 of his career-defining songs.

15. "Calypso"

John Denver poses for a portrait in his hotel room in 1979 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

Denver wrote "Calypso" in 1975 to tribute Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his research ship, the Calypso. The song was released on Denver's 1975 album Windsong. Released as the B-side of "I'm Sorry," "Calypso" charted on the Billboard Hot 100. After "I'm Sorry" fell out of the No. 1 spot, "Calypso" received more airplay and eventually landed in the No. 2 spot on the Hot 100 chart.

14. "Poems, Prayers and Promises"

 John Denver performs at Northrup Auditorium in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 5, 1991.

Photo by Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This song is from Denver's fourth studio album, Poems, Prayers & Promises. The album was released in 1971 and is responsible for Denver's commercial breakthrough to success with songs like "Poems, Prayers, and Promises," "My Sweet Lady," "I Guess He'd Rather Be in Colorado," "Sunshine on My Shoulders," and "Take Me Home, Country Roads," which became Denver's signature song.

13. "Take Me to Tomorrow"

This song is the title track of Denver's second studio album, Take Me to Tomorrow, which was released in 1970.

12. "Back Home Again"

Denver released "Back Home Again" as a single from his album of the same name in 1974. The song peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it was his fifth Top 10 hit on the pop chart! The song topped the country music chart and won Denver a CMA for Song of the Year. He was also named CMA Entertainer of the Year- where Charlie Rich famously set the envelope on fire in protest of Denver's win.

11. "Some Days Are Diamonds"

Country musician John Denver performing on the set of The Muppet Show at Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire, circa 1979.

Photo by TV Times via Getty Images

Originally a song written and recorded by singer-songwriter Dick Feller, Denver covered this song and took it to No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

10. "The Eagle and The Hawk"

Denver wrote this song for a TV special he filmed in the Rocky Mountains. The special never aired, but Denver released the song on his 1971 album Aerie.

9. "Looking For Space"

 John Denver performs live at the Jaap Eden Hall in Amsterdam, Netherlands on July 08 1979

Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

Released as a single from his album Windsong, the song peaked at No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1976. It reached No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, his seventh single to top the chart.

8. "This Old Guitar"

Denver wrote this song about a 1910 Gibson "F-hole" acoustic jazz guitar his grandmother gave him when he was 12 years old.

7. "Sweet Surrender"

"Sweet Surrender" was originally recorded for Denver's 1974 album Back Home Again but was chosen as the lead single for the concert album An Evening with John Denver.  The song reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1975, remaining in the Top 40 for eight weeks. The song was covered by the folk-rock band The Seekers.

6. "Sunshine On My Shoulders"

Musician John Denver during an appearance on the Muppet Show. He is seated around a campfire with (clockwise): Kermit the Frog (facing away from camera), unidentified, Janis, Scooter, John Denver, Gonzo and Chickens, Fozzie Bear and Rolf the Dog.

Musician John Denver during an appearance on the Muppet Show. He is seated around a campfire with (clockwise): Kermit the Frog (facing away from camera), unidentified, Janis, Scooter, John Denver, Gonzo and Chickens, Fozzie Bear and Rolf the Dog. Getty Images

From Denver's 1971 album Poems, Prayers, & Promises, the tender "Sunshine On My Shoulders," was Denver's first No. 1 hit.

"I was so down I wanted to write a feeling-blue song," he told Seventeen magazine, "[but] this is what came out."

5. "Take Me Home, Country Roads"

"Take Me Home Country Roads," an ode to West Virginia, is so beloved it's one of four official state anthems of the Mountain State. But no matter where you live, you can't help but sing along when that chorus kicks in.

4. "Annie's Song"

From his 1974 record Back Home Again, this song written about his wife of the time, Annie Martell Denver. The song reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

3. "Rocky Mountain High"

"Rocky Mountain High," written by Denver and his friend Mike Taylor, peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. Though the song was actually inspired by an innocent, awe-inspiring night in one of Denver's favorite places, several radio stations banned the tune on the assumption that it was a reference to getting high. The confusion even led to Denver testifying in Congress. But the short-lived controversy only added to the song's mystique.

The song is one of the two official state songs of Colorado.

2. "Leaving On A Jet Plane"

Denver originally released this song as "Oh Babe I Hate to Go" on his 1966 record, John Denver Sings. Peter, Paul, and Mary released the song as "Leaving On A Jet Plane" in 1969. The song was the band's only No. 1 hit.

1. "Thank God I'm A Country Boy"

 Photo of John DENVER

Photo by David Warner Ellis/Redferns

"Thank God I'm a Country Boy" was written by John Martin Sommers and released by Denver on his 1974 album Back Home Again. The song was re-released after it was recorded live on August 26, 1974, at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles and was released on Denver's 1975 album An Evening with John Denver. The live version hit No. 1 on both the Billboard Magazine Hot Country Singles and Billboard Hot 100 charts. Thank God I'm a Country Boy also became the name of a variety show hosted by Denver in 1977.


Check out our playlist of John Denver songs below. 

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