Thank You, John Denver

Inspiration for my stories comes from many different places. Sometimes it’s an observation made in a crowded restaurant. It may be from a photo prompt or from a family story. Other times, ideas just pop in my head. But often, it’s songs from favorite groups or singers.

John Denver’s music inspired some of my early works. Years ago, I used to write a First Friday Fiction post, and the idea for one of those stories came from the words of “Rocky Mountain High.”

For the anthology, Bright Lights and Candle Glow, I wrote a story titled Montana Christmas. Once again, a John Denver song, “Christmas For Cowboys” inspired me.

I recently completed the first draft of a short story titled Summerwood. The title came from the name of a housing addition I pass each day while driving to work. The original story was a flash fiction piece featuring a road-weary rock star. I published the story in 2020 with the intention of expanding it.

Here’s an unedited excerpt:

You can do this. One more night. You’re almost there. You can do this.

That had been Dylan’s mantra for the last month. The grueling schedule of forty-two appearances in a sixty-day period was taking its toll. Two more weeks and the tour was done. If he could only hold out until Memorial Day.

At thirty-two years old, he was still young, but he felt more like sixty-two. Was it any wonder many singers turned to alcohol or drugs to cope with life on the road?

He swore long ago that would never be him. He’d quit the business before he allowed it to happen.

I wrote a few scenes, but something seemed amiss, so I put the story aside. I picked it up again a few weeks later, determined to finish by the end of November. But even as I wrote the final two scenes, I still sensed something wasn’t right. Even with all that work, I was ready to shelve the project indefinitely.

As I sat at my computer, I looked out my window to the woods surrounding our house. The fall colors had faded and most of the trees were bare. But as I sat there, I thought of how much I love the outdoors, the changing seasons, nature, and wildlife.

A view of the woods near our house. I took this photo a few weeks ago.

And the words of a John Denver song came to mind. It’s not one of his big hits but comes from the Rocky Mountain High album. “Summer” talks about his love of life—the life within him and the life around him.

And that’s when it hit me. I didn’t need my main character to be a rock star. A country rock or folk singer fits the story much better. I finished that draft with a renewed purpose.

Summerwood is one of the stories I plan to include in a collection of shorts to be published sometime next year.

Here’s a video of John singing a song that I first heard on his 1975 television special, A Rocky Mountain Christmas.

Thank you, John Denver.

31 thoughts on “Thank You, John Denver

  1. I love John Denver. Not only do I adore his music, but I always really liked all his movies, too. I have 1 or 2 on DVD.
    This was such a cool glimpse into your creative process, Joan. I happen to love folk singers (Arlo Guthrie, anyone?) so I like how the character spoke to you and changed your mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And now I want to listen to “City of New Orleans.” I also liked the music of Peter, Paul, and Mary.

      I agree John was a decent actor as well. We have a Christmas movie with him in it. Watched it not long ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful post, Joan. Music has been the inspiration for many of my stories, and even lines within the stories. I love how the entire process for Summerwood story came about. And we do know when a story isn’t quite right. It’s an internal knowing. Thank you for sharing. I just love this! And I look forward to reading Summerwood!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I just learned yesterday that my son’s favorite song is a John Denver song (Take Me Home, Country Roads). If you knew my son (who used to listen exclusively to rap but branched into other genres in high school), you’d know why that surprises me. I know lately he’s been a (modern) country fan, but that’s a far cry John Denver’s folk ballads. I didn’t even know he knew who John Denver was. (I mentioned some other John Denver titles, but he didn’t know them. I can’t figure out how he found this song, other than maybe because it has the word “country” in the title and he checked it out.) Then I realized where he first heard the song, though he didn’t remember until I reminded him. When he was young and we used to drive back to Pennsylvania to visit family, we’d sing that song when we reached West Virginia. My son thought he’d only discovered the song in the last few years, but after I mentioned it, he had a vague recollection of it.

    Music memory. It’s amazing.

    I’m still a little miffed at John Denver for not putting enough fuel in his plane, but that’s a complaint for another time. Today, I’m grateful to him for bringing a sweet memory back to me and giving me another connection to my son, who currently lives 1,000 miles from me.

    Sorry I rambled. I love how his music and a small change to your story made all the difference. Looking forward to your collection when you publish.

    Liked by 1 person

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