Top 20 Best-Selling Country Artists of All Time: No. 10 John Denver

by Jim Casey

John Denver created a tapestry of music that pulled from the best threads of country, folk, and pop. While he couldn’t be hemmed in, his country credentials should not be doubted. In fact, they should be celebrated. Much like Linda Ronstadt or Kenny Rogers, Denver’s music and fandom transcended more than one genre.

John Denver is No. 10 on our list of the Best-Selling Country Artists of All Time, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The RIAA tracks domestic album sales in the U.S. with its gleaming certifications: Gold (500,000 units), Platinum (1 million units), Multi-Platinum (2 million units and more), and Diamond (10 million units).

No. 10: John Denver

  • 33.5 Million Units Sold
  • 7 Multi-Platinum Albums
  • 7 Platinum Albums
  • 9 Gold Albums
  • 1 Platinum Singles
  • 6 Gold Singles

Dare to Be Great

John Denver’s best-selling album is John Denver’s Greatest Hits. The 1975 record marked John’s first compilation album, which has since been certified 9X Platinum by the RIAA for sales of 9 million units. As advertised, the 11-song collection featured many of John’s fan-favorite hits, including “Take Me Home, Country Road,” “Sunshine on My Shoulder,” and “Rocky Mountain High,” among others.

John’s best-selling studio album is 1974’s Back Home Again, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, as well as the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. The album has been certified 3X Platinum for sales of 3 million units. The album’s title track was John’s first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. In addition, “Back Home Again” was named Song of the Year at the 1975 CMA Awards, where John was also named Entertainer of the Year (to the drunken dismay of Charlie Rich).

Country Roads

John’s best-selling song is ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Released in 1971, the single has been certified Platinum by the RIAA for sales of 1 million units. The tune, which John co-penned, peaked at No. 2 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart.

In addition, John released six singles that have been certified Gold for sales of 500,000 units: “Rocky Mountain High,” “I’m Sorry,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “Back Home Again,” “Annie’s Song,” and “Sunshine on My Shoulder.”

In Defense of John Denver

John Denver loved country music. However, John never considered himself purely just a “country” artist, per se. His popularity transcended country music. In the 1970s, he was a pop culture phenomenon. And for some reason, we (country fans) hold that against him. Don’t blame 2001’s Super Troopers.

John chose to live in Colorado instead of Nashville. If he had move to Music City and started wearing a cowboy hat, he’d be in the Country Music Hall of Fame right now. Speaking of the CMHOF, John deserves serious consideration. Hopefully, his success on the country charts (3 No. 1 singles, 3 No. 1 albums), songwriting prowess, and, yes, crossover appeal will get him elected in the CMHOF’s Veterans Era category one day.

Come on, he’s a country boy.