John Denver - vocals, guitar; Unknown - other musicians
Although only three songs were recorded from this benefit performance held at the home of the late Senator Robert Kennedy in 1972, they are the highlight of what was likely a 90-minute performance. "Rocky Mountain High" was Denver's current single at the time and would be the song that put him in the international music spotlight upon its release in 1972. ("Take Me Home, Country Roads" from the previous year's Poems, Prayers and Promises LP was his first big hit, but was eclipsed on the charts when "Rocky Mountain High" came out). He then launched into a solid version of the Steve Goodman classic, "City of New Orleans," which Denver also recorded in 1971 (although it would be his contemporary Arlo Guthrie's version that became the radio hit).
He ends this brief performance with "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," an anti-war protest song that had a long history with Denver and his career. Originally written by pioneer folk singer Ed McCurdy in 1950 (in protest of World War II and the Korean War), the song was also recorded by Joan Baez and Simon & Garfunkel in response to the conflict in Vietnam, but it was the Weavers (which included Pete Seeger) who had the most popular version. The Weavers were a huge influence on Chad Mitchell Trio, a popular folk group of the early 1960s that featured Denver as their rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist.
While in the Chad Mitchell Trio, Denver recorded "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream," which became a key part of the group's live set. When Denver left Mitchell's group in 1969, he took the song with him. It was around this time that his original song, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," was recorded by folk icons Peter Paul & Mary, becoming the trio's last big radio hit.
Born John Deutschendorf into a military family in 1943, in the Air Force base located at Roswell, New Mexico, he arrived just four years before the infamous aliens' spacecraft crash is believed by many to have landed there. Denver had no interest in discussing the alien incident; rather, he began playing guitar and singing at age 12. He adopted the surname "Denver" for the capital of his favorite state, after he was told that Deutschendorf wouldn't fit comfortably on building marquees. In 1964, he dropped out of the architecture program at Texas Tech University and moved to LA to become a folk singer.
After four years and limited success with The Mitchell Trio, he launched his solo career. By the mid-1970s, Denver had sold over 20 million records, was the host of a popular TV variety series, had played countless sold out concerts around the world, and had begun a moderately successful career as a film actor. His biggest hits include "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Calypso," "Annie's Song," "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," and "Rocky Mountain High." John Denver died tragically in a plane crash in October 1997, at the age of 53. In early 2007, "Rocky Mountain High" was declared the new state song of Colorado.