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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Non-fiction

by Susan Abraham

Working as a magazine journalist, I once interviewed the late American folk singer, songwriter and actor, John Denver (Henry John Deutschendorf Jr.) when he came to town for a tree-planting campaign. He held a press conference and later, I was allowed a personal interview.

This was just before the well-loved pop idol's death, when his silence had subdued 3 decades of chart-topping hits that included Country Roads, Sunshine on My Shoulder, Leaving on a Jetplane, Take me Home Country Roads and Rocky Mountain High.

His loyal road manager seemed upbeat that Denver would regain his audience with new plans to revive his showbiz career.

Of course, Denver's intense love for nature and the wild and his fervent support for charitable causes, made him the perfect spokesman for a Saving the Trees campaign that would also heighten a renewed public awareness on the singer's past achievements.

However, this proved a difficult interview.

I instantly found Denver to be incurably depressed - if you could put it like that. He was morose and melancholy and I suspected did not care for journalists. His answers were clipped and he looked sullen but he did give me the time and try to engage in a stilted conversation. You felt, the celebrity's mind was a million miles away.

He was at the time, engaged in a bitter divorce feud with his second wife, Cassandra who had given birth to his daughter. I wondered, that perhaps, the musician couldn't have left his troubles behind.

It didn't help that he instantly became annoyed when I asked about his first wife, Anne Martell, the muse for his once-upon-a-time hit, Annie's Song. His face turned red with a secret silent fury and I knew from the ensuing dialogue, I had hit a sore point and that his feelings for her were still immense. That stays my view from a personal observation, to this present day.

He knew that I knew that I had touched a raw nerve. I guessed after all these years, he was still hurting. A faux-paux on my part.

Later, I told my editors in Singapore about his depression. I really couldn't picture him any other way and was often brash and deadly honest in my reporting.
"Would the readers feel depressed reading it?" "Possibly," I said. Also, I felt a need at the time to protect his privacy. So we never ran the story.

Not too long afterwards, I read that he had plunged to his death in ocean waters past Monterey Bay, while flying his single-engined fibreglass plane, still considered to be an experimental aircraft. Still, persistent rumours would suggest that his depression had prompted a sudden suicide.

Of course, this was never proven but having met him, had the latter theory been the case; I would not have at all been surprised.

Image credit for picture to: Kubicek-Bremen

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