I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

...Of Me And John Denver...

You always remember what you were doing when you found out that Kennedy had been shot.That was way before I was born (but still a part of my memories though,as a previous post explained),but there are a lot of such momentous events that leave an imprint on your mind,like a sort of a time capsule,filled with all the sights and sounds and scents of that particular point in time.

October 13,1997.The day was a Friday,the old holiday,and the friday paper was in my hand.We were in Murree,the cold sunshine nipping through the trees.I was glancing through the paper when I saw the headline ,"John Denver's Travels Down Country Roads Come To Tragic End".I still remember my shock,and my wildly thumping heart as I showed the news to my dad.John was,as far as I know,the only english singer he ever listened to (to this day,alas),and he was terribly sad.It was more like a family tragedy like anything else..

Back when CDs weren't the ubiquitious little varmints they now are,and downloads were still something too frightfully distant to comprehend,artists like John weren't that easily available.I've still got those two bootlegged cassettes that one used to get from Bombeat Rawalpindi,the ones they used to record themselves.The green-sleeved one was the Greatest Hits Vol.1,and the red-sleeved Vol.2 These two little plastic contraptions were,the only english music I heard for the first 12 years of my life.

And the place to hear them was the car stereo.We are a family of road-trippers,heading off everywhichway for no apparent reason at all.And the musical accompaniement was to me (as explained in a previous post) the most important part of the trip.Driving along the roads,with Annie's Song playing is one of my clearest memories.Another one is bathing at the tube-well,with the sun blazing down,and me meditatively humming "Sunshine On My Shoulders".

Now,I have a thing with songs,that is I can learn 'em with just a listen or two (something I wish I could emulate with my studies).And John's songs were the first ones in my repertoire.My dad listened to him because he was melodic,infact something more than melodic.He gave you what the Eagles called the "Peaceful,Easy feeling".But I took a liking to him for something else,the words.The mountain ballads,the Colorado songs,the intimate dirges,all these are what started my love for singer-songwriters.

I only really "get" people after they're dead.In some cases because,well they died before I was born,and in others because that's when I first begin to get intrigued about them.That was the case with JD too.It was much later that I came to know of his other life.The fact that he was a trained,certified jet-pilot with over 7500 flight hours.The fact that he was the first western performer to be allowed inside Communist Russia and China.The fact that he was the Poet-Laureate of Colorado.The fact that he changed his name to the state capital.These facts,important in their own right,are mere embellishments for me.Embelishments on the many many hours of pleasure that I derived and continue to derive.

There's a couple of songs that I call my "life songs".Among them is the gem,"Leavin'On A Jet Plane".Released when John was part of the Chad Mitchell Trio in the sixties,it gave him his first songwriting creds.It's been covered (mauled) by many an artist.It is one of the most ironically poignant songs ever,considering the unfortunate deaths of both John and his first wife Annie in jet-plane crashes.They say music is prophetic of times to come.If that's true,then what an epitaph John wrote for himself...


  1. Again, the list of freaky coincidences never ends...the first englih musician i ever heard was Denver too, the song County Roads and aptly i remember it being a daily ritual in Little Rock, Arkansas.

    To cancel out the influence the next singer just had to be Madonna with Papa Dont Preach.

  2. That's a great antidote to JD...
    especially the mauling li'l miss Osbourne gave it...