Notes on a scandal…February 1976 … a look back at music and celebrity history
JOHN DENVER: “I Enjoy Hash!”
Reported in Rona Barrett’s Hollywood, February 1976, the all-American boy, singer “John Denver” recently shocked the nation when he announced that he doesn’t get all his “highs” from the Rocky Mountains.
In a recent visit to Australia, Denver is quoted as saying, “sure, I enjoy hash, I use it. I have a lot of fun with the stuff.” As reported, Denver was referring to the drug “hash,” which (was stated,) is the strongest part of the marijuana plant.
“But it’s like alcohol,” he went on to explain. “It should be handled with responsibility. You shouldn’t let it get out of hand. You can get stoned on marijuana…but you can get high just being up in the mountains. He went on to say, “I’m not suggesting that kids ought to use it, I’m just saying that I use it and I don’t figure it’s doing me any harm. Everyone should make up their own mind on that sort of thing.”
The article goes on to say that his comments came as a complete surprise to his legions of fans who considered him one of their leading organic, homespun citizens. After his comments were heard around the world, countries expressed their surprise and disappointment over the singer’s announcement. After a press conference upon Denver’s arrival in Australia, an Australian newspaper reported that Denver’s comments “endangered” his status in the country. The Reverend Fred Nile, director of Australia’s “Festival of Light,” stated that he felt that Denver should be deported if he continued to smoke marijuana in Sydney: “He should be dealt with in the same way as other pop stars caught with drugs,” he said.
The article finishes with: “the ‘clean-cut’ image Denver worked for so many years to achieve looks like it may be gone forever…Far-out!”
One of the world’s best-known and best loved performers of the 60’s and 70’s, John Denver, earned international acclaim as a songwriter, performer, actor, environmentalist and humanitarian. Spanning three decades, he received many music awards as well as honours, including the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Music Award in 1993 and being inducted into the American Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
In 1963, Denver left home and moved to Los Angeles to be a part of the nascent California music scene. With his new home came a new name. The former Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. chose the stage name John Denver, in homage to the beautiful Rocky Mountain capital city of his home state, Colorado. He never looked back.
In no time Denver was climbing the Pop charts with songs like “Take me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” and “Calypso.” These Pop-hits, (today’s background music for the geriatric crowd) cemented his position as one of the decade’s top pop stars. During his peak, sales included 14 gold, and 8 platinum albums in the U.S. as well as numerous gold and platinum sales overseas.
On October 12, 1997, Denver was killed when the Long-EZ aircraft he was piloting ran out of fuel just off the coast of California – although the experimental aircraft is designed for fuel-efficient long range flight and can fly over ten hours and up to 1,600 miles on 52 gallons of fuel (it is equipped with a rear fuel tank which allows a Long-EZ to fly for 4,800 miles.) Although Denver was an experienced pilot, he had only flown the Long-EZ for a one-half hour orientation flight the day before the accident.
Prior to the accident, the FAA found that Denver did not meet the medical standards prescribed in Part 67 of the Federal Aviation Regulations due to his ongoing drinking problem, and a determination was made that he was not qualified for any class of medical standards at the time of the accident. Reports state that there was little left of the wreckage and that dental records were needed to identify the pilot as John Denver.