John Denver was among the most popular artists of the 1970s and early ’80s, selling untold millions of albums on his way to worldwide celebrity. But his solo debut album, Rhymes & Reasons (RCA), was released in October 1969, 50 years ago, and it contained his version of the song that really put him on the map as a songwriter, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” That tune appeared on Peter, Paul & Mary’s Top 20 1967 record called Album 1700, though “Leaving on a Jet Plane” wasn’t released as a single until 1969, when it raced to the Number 1 spot on the Billboard chart (making it’s inclusion on Denver’s album a no-brainer). It also hit the top of the “Easy Listening” chart and was a hit in Canada and overseas, as well.


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Denver wrote the song, originally titled “Baby, I Hate to Go,” in 1966 and even recorded a solo version of it that year for a self-released LP called John Denver Sings, which had a pressing of just 250 copies. In the version here from 1972, he’s joined by Cass Elliot, of Mamas & the Papas fame, on the TV program The Midnight Special. Lovely vocals and nice, chime-y Guild 12-string! —Blair Jackson