Country Throwback: John Denver Performs ‘I Want to Live’ with Choir in Rare Clip from 1981 Symposium

by Suzanne Halliburton

The late John Denver was an incredible singer, songwriter, humanitarian and conservationist, lending his talents for rights related to humans and their environment.

Many of his songs describe the regal beauty of our surroundings, from the mundane like a winding country road to the majestic like the Rocky Mountains.

John Denver also tried to help with the most basic of causes — helping starving people find food.

In 1978, he released a song called “I Want To Live” from his album of the same name. John Denver and Harry Chapin wrote the folksy song. Denver wanted the song to be the theme music for a new presidential commission on hunger. He pitched the idea to then-President Jimmy Carter. Denver, who campaigned for Carter in 1976, became a part of the new presidential commission.

Denver was motivated by a documentary called “The Hungry Planet.” Plus, he’d already worked on hunger issues in California.

John Denver Said He Was No Expert On Hunger, But His Song Fit The Cause

“Obviously I’m not an expert,” Denver told the Washington Post in 1978. “But I’m an expert in communications. And much of the commission’s work is to get facts together and present them to people directed at doing something. In that regard, I get to be a pretty important person on that commission.”

John Denver added: “I’ve wanted to improve the quality of life on this planet, and here was a place to start.”

Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

“We are standing all together, face to face and arm in arm. We are standing on the threshold of a dream. No more hunger, no more killing, no more wasting life away.
It is simply an idea and I know its time has come.”

This all brings us to a unique version of Denver’s “I Want To Live.”

In March, 1981, two months after President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, Denver sang at a seminar devoted to ending world hunger. The setting was Utah State in Logan, Utah. And the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, all 325 members, performed the song with Denver.

Denver always could bring attention to a cause dear to his heart, no matter who was in the White House.

John Denver died Oct. 12, 1997. He was flying an experimental plane, when it crashed into Monterey Bay near Pacific Grove, Ca.

During his career as a singer, he recorded 300 songs. Denver wrote about 200 of them. He had 33 gold albums and singles.

His most famous hits were “Take Me Home, Country Roads“, “Annie’s Song“, “Rocky Mountain High“, “Calypso“, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy“, and “Sunshine on My Shoulders.”

“I Want To Live” wasn’t a Denver commercial success. But it sounded celestial when he performed it with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Enjoy: