‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ by John Denver: Story Behind the Timeless Song

by Halle Ames

Boy, do we wish we were heading somewhere on a jet plane, preferably somewhere warm for vacation. However, the real story behind the John Denver song has to do with his constant flow of goodbyes to the people he cares about.

John Denver’s classic 1966 song “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” has always been a catchy hit, but Amy King revealed that it has a more personal meaning to the artist.

Growing up, John Denver was the child of a military family. The artist had to frequently say his goodbyes as he moved from place to place. Later in life, Denver had to get acquainted with the saying once again as he made a name for himself in the music industry.

The job forced him to travel around the country and leave relationships, which took a toll on John Denver.

John Denver’s Inspiration

In addition, the song’s main inspiration was his wife, Annie. Denver revealed that he found a home within her and wherever she was he was at peace. He said that she was the one person who finally grounded him.

However, when you are forced to travel and leave the person you seek shelter in, that is a challenging feat for most. John Denver turned to other women, alcohol, and drugs for assistance. “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was actually John Denver’s way of apologizing and begging Annie to stay with him. He says throughout everything, Annie is the one thing he holds tight to in the lyrics.

There’s so many times I’ve let you down, So many times I’ve played around. I tell you now, they don’t mean a thing. Ev’ry place I go, I’ll think of you. Ev’ry song I sing, I’ll sing for you, When I come back, I’ll wear your wedding ring.”

‘Leaving on the Jet Plane’

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is one of John Denver’s biggest hits and further put his name on the map. The song was never intended for public ears, however. Denver used his own money to record and publish only a few of the albums, which he gave to his closest family and friends.

Like most secrets, the word got out. The song was accidentally released, and numerous bands began to cover it, gaining its popularity. John Denver then began to perform and sell “Leaving on a Jet Plane” for audiences.

Annie and John Denver did end up getting a divorce in 1982, unfortunately. He later died in 1997 after piloting a small plane that ran out of gas and crashed with only him on board.