John Denver's autograph : his lyrics as a cultural and literary record.

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Klemt, Barbara
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Middle Tennessee State University
Since the early 1970s John Denver has achieved significant success as a singer and songwriter. The types of songs he writes and the prose style conventions found in his lyrics have had much to do with his worldwide appeal as a singer.
Chapter I is a survey of the literature about popular music, notably country, and establishes the importance of lyric analysis. Most books about musical genres chronicle their development and identify common subjects, yet a source examining the thematic and stylistic traits in one singer's lyrics does not exist. Therefore, this study of Denver's content and style helps fill a scholarship void.
Chapter II is a review of Denver's personal life and career. The chapter identifies the important people and events in Denver's personal life, starting with his Air Force upbringing and ending with his second divorce. Afterward, his contributions to the music, television, film, and book industries are highlighted.
Chapter III is an analysis of the themes and style conventions in Denver's love, story, and nature recordings during the 1970s. Typically the love songs, such as the hit "Annie's Song," are a tribute to former or current significant others. The story songs, including "Rocky Mountain High," are narratives that depict a protagonist's change or rebirth. "Sunshine on My Shoulders" exemplifies the singles that celebrate nature's beauty and goodness, much the way English romanticist William Wordsworth's poetry does. Repetition, simile, and personification are among Denver's style standards that relate to the techniques of classical rhetoricians.
Chapter IV is an examination of the content and style in his love, story, and environment songs during the 1980s. Denver's love and story songs, such as "Perhaps Love" and "Wild Montana Skies," respectively, are quite similar to those earlier types. However, the nature songs become wider in scope, for they are about the global environment. World peace, space exploration, and refugeeism are among the issues in the environment songs.
Chapter V notes the value, especially to English scholars of lyric analysis. Denver's content and technique represent qualities common in classical oratory and in traditional literature, thereby justifying the inclusion of popular song lyrics in the current literary canon.
Chair: Charles K. Wolfe.