He was an environmentalist, an activist, and a lover of nature, expressed in his songs, “Rocky Mountain High” and “Calypso.”
He met Annie Martell in 1967 at Aspen, Colorado through friends and they instantly connected. Their relationship grew in the ski country that would always be home to them. They married soon after meeting, not caring about their many differences. It was a romance made in heaven but destined for problems. Annie was shy and a homebody. John loved to travel, perhaps due to his military roots. They adopted two children, Zackary and Anna Kate, as John was sterile.
While John toured and was at the height of his fame, Annie stayed home with the children and her insecurity worked on her. She was intimidated by his success and absences. She said “I didn’t have an identity; I didn’t know who I was.” They both withdrew into themselves instead of communicating their problems.
They separated briefly and John flew to Switzerland. Annie said, “It was only six days, but it felt like three months.” A long distance call staged a reconciliation. “What it came down to is that love is unconditional. We’ve had some bad times but now we keep talking,” she said.
One of John’s most memorable songs is “Annie’s Song” which he wrote in 1975 on a ski lift in Aspen in ten minutes. It was written for his wife following their reconciliation. “Come let me love you, let me give my life to you, let me drown in your laughter, let me die in your arms.”
Unfortunately love doesn’t always conquer all and the reconciliation didn’t last. The next separation ended in divorce after fifteen years of marriage. It was not a pretty divorce. At one point John used a chainsaw to saw their bed in half and once during a heated argument, he tried to choke her.
Strangely, after their divorce, they reconnected in a new way and became friends.
John remarried to Cassandra Delaney-it only lasted two years and also ended in bitter divorce, but resulted in a daughter, Jesse Belle.
John had many personal issues in the 90s. He was arrested for drunk driving more than once. He had gone through his second divorce. An outlet for him was flying; his father taught him to fly and he had his own plane, but he was facing a review of his license for alcohol use while flying.
In 1997 John Denver died in a crash in a plane he piloted as the only occupant.
He didn’t leave a will and a judge appointed Annie Martell to be executrix, and divide the assets equally amongst his three children, aside from trust funds that were already in place.
Annie Martell remained in Aspen Colorado where she is a family therapist.