Country Throwback: Watch John Denver Sing ‘Silent Night’ for 1975 Special

by Katie Maloney

John Denver performs “Silent Night” in 1975 from his 10th studio album, Rocky Mountain Christmas.

During an ABC television special, Denver performs “Silent Night” for a festive audience. Before playing, Denver introduces the song. He says, “This song was written for the guitar. Although it’s not really played that way anymore, it’s the way I like it best.” In true Denver form, he played the music he wanted to play in the style he wanted to play it in.

John Denver performs “Silent Night”

John Denver Breaks Records With His Christmas Special

Denver’s album was accompanied by the network TV special of the same name. The special set a viewing record for ABC with more than 60 million viewers. That was a larger audience than specials featuring other artists including Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, and Perry Como.

Along with several traditional Christmas carols, Rocky Mountain Christmas also includes two original songs, “Christmas for Cowboys” and “A Baby Just Like You.” “Christmas for Cowboys” reached #58 on the charts. The song remains Denver’s most played Christmas song today.

John Denver’s “Christmas for Cowboys”

Fellow Artist, Charlie Rich, Protests Denver’s Music

After releasing his album in 1975, Denver received the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award. However, not everyone was a John Denver fan. In fact, some country musicians were adamantly against Denver’s style of music. Singer-songwriter, Charlie Rich, who had previously won the Entertainer of the Year award, set the notification envelope on fire in protest of Denver’s win. As the previous winner, Rich presented Denver the award. However, as he announced Denver’s name, Rich pulled out a lighter and set fire to the envelope.

Many believed that Rich was protesting Denver’s pop-music influences. However, years later, Rich’s son says that a combination of alcohol and medication prescriptions caused his father’s behavior. Furthermore, Denver had no idea that the incident even occurred. He was present only via satellite linkup, so he couldn’t watch the Rich. Denver happily delivered his acceptance speech without knowing what just occurred.