The American singing icon and former poet laureate of Colorado, John Denver, will be posthumously honored 17 years after his death with the installation of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The ceremony will be on Friday, Oct. 24 at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time at 7065 Hollywood Boulevard and will stream live on WalkofFame.com.
Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. on New Year’s Eve of 1944, the man decided to change his name after Randy Sparks of The New Christy Minstrels told him that “Deutschendorf” was too long for a theater marquee. Present at the much-overdue ceremony will be the star’s children, Jesse Belle Denver and Zak Deutschendorf.
The Hollywood ceremony coincides with the release of All Of My Memories: The John Denver Collection CD boxed set as well as an exhibition of his photography at Hollywood’s Substrate Gallery. An acoustic version of the singer’s second United States number-one song, “Annie’s Song,” will be performed by Trampled by Turtles.
The four-CD boxed set, which is scheduled for release Nov. 4, includes 90 songs. It will be the first all-inclusive overview of his work, spanning the years from 1964 to 1997. Guests are said to include Olivia Newton-John, the Muppets, Placido Domingo, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Emmylou Harris.
A star for the singer is not a new idea. It was over 30 years ago, in 1982, that his manager paid $3,000 to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the star’s placement. That organization reportedly waited for Denver to schedule a date for the ceremony but it never happened. Then, on Oct. 12, 1997, Denver was killed at age of 53 when his Experimental category aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean off northern California’s Point Pinos. Denver had logged more than 2,700 flight experience hours and held ratings for single-engine land and sea, multi-engine land, glider and instrument. He also was also rated for his Learjet.
An autopsy revealed no trace of drugs or alcohol. An investigation by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board blamed the accident on the unusual and awkward location of the handle used to change fuel tanks during flight. Investigators said that the unorthodox position of the fuel selector valve – which was non-standard for the Rutan Long-EZ aircraft – required the singer to turn 90 degrees to reach the valve. It was then assumed that he would have tried to support himself by pushing his right foot against the right rudder pedal, thus quickly forcing the airplane to move off course and pitch up.
Denver was also a talented photographer. The exhibition of his images, Sweet, Sweet Life: The Photographic Works of John Denver, will display more than 40 never-before-seen photographs taken during his world travels and reportedly highlight his personal advocacy of love, peace and Earth conservation. The Oct. 24 to Nov. 23 exhibition will also make certain limited edition prints available for purchase. The star’s estate said on its website, JohnDenver.com, that the presentation will be “a rare and unique look into the artist’s life, mind and heart!”
In addition to Annie’s Song, the singer was also known for Sunshine on My Shoulder, Take Me Home, Country Roads and Leaving on a Jet Plane. His will be the 2,531st star to be placed on the famous Hollywood Walk of Stars.
By Gregory Baskin