BY SANTI GABINO JR.
The Athens Theatre in DeLand pays homage to two legendary musical forces: the iconic John Denver and the legendary band Chicago. On Friday, Aug. 25, with shows at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., immerse yourself in the soul-stirring melodies of John Denver, as Carl Bennett’s John Denver Tribute takes you on a heartfelt journey through the wonders of nature and the depths of human emotions.
Then, on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 7:30 p.m., get ready to groove to the unforgettable sound of Chicago, as Chicago Rewired belts out the dynamic band’s chart-topping hits! From John Denver’s enchanting folk tunes to Chicago’s fusion of jazz and rock, this extraordinary musical weekend promises to transport you to a world of nostalgia and timeless classics.
Born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. on New Year’s Eve 1943, John Denver’s journey as a musician began at the age of 11, when he started playing the guitar. Later he became a member of the folk-music group The Chad Mitchell Trio.
His 1971 hit single “Take Me Home, Country Roads” became an anthem for West Virginia, captivating listeners with its simple yet heartfelt lyrics. The song’s charm lies in its ability to evoke a sense of sentimentality and a desire to return to a place that feels like “home.”
Interestingly enough, the song wasn’t initially intended for West Virginia, but was rewritten specifically for the state after a suggestion from a friend. In 2014, the state made the song one of its four official anthems, and West Virginia University’s marching band plays the song when their teams (go, Mountaineers!) win.
Beyond his musical hits, of which there are many, including “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” to name just a few, Denver was a committed environmentalist. He was actively involved in advocating for wildlife conservation, and raised awareness about pressing environmental issues through his songs.
Throughout his career, Denver won numerous awards and accolades, including several Grammys and CMA awards.
His tragic death in 1997 in a plane crash at the age of 53 further solidified his legacy, leaving a void in the music industry and in the hearts of his fans. However, his music continues to resonate with new generations, as it embodies the wholesome and ageless themes of love, peace, and the beauty of the world around us.
Switching gears and heading to the “Land of Lincoln,” Chicago initially called themselves The Big Thing before eventually settling on their now-famous name. Their unique blend of rock, jazz and soul set them apart and quickly garnered them a devoted fan base.
One of the most interesting aspects of their music is their distinct sound, characterized by a strong horn section, which was quite uncommon in rock bands of the late 1960s. The band’s incorporation of brass instruments, including trumpets and trombones, brought a vibrant and dynamic element to their music, elevating their compositions to a whole new level.
In 1969, Chicago released their debut album The Chicago Transit Authority, which showcased their groundbreaking fusion of genres and set the stage for their rise to stardom. The album received widespread acclaim and included instant hits like “Beginnings” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
Throughout the 1970s, Chicago continued to churn out chart-topping hits, making them one of the most commercially successful bands of the era. Their album Chicago V, released in 1972, became their first No. 1 album and featured classics like “Saturday in the Park” and “Dialogue (Part I & II).”
Chicago’s longevity is a testament to their adaptability and musical prowess. Even after the tragic loss of founding member and guitarist Terry Kath in 1978, the band continued to thrive and evolve. They ventured into power ballads and soft rock during the 1980s, resulting in hits like “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and “You’re the Inspiration.”
In 2016, Chicago was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a well-deserved recognition of their lasting influence on the music industry. With more than 50 years of making music and an impressive 25 studio albums, Chicago’s contribution to the rock and jazz fusion genre is unparalleled.
The weekend of Aug. 25 and 26, relive the magic and the music of John Denver and Chicago, with Carl Bennett’s Tribute to John Denver and Chicago Rewired. Follow your country road, to the place you belong. Be prepared to fill up your senses, bring the one you love and let them know, You’re the Meaning in my Life, you’re the inspiration. It’ll be Hard to Say I’m Sorry if you miss this weekend of extraordinary music!
Tickets and more information can be found at www. AthensDeLand.com or by calling the box office at 386-736-1500.