John Denver and the Artistic Community's Concern about Hunger
The performing arts community has traditionally been involved in promoting human rights, environmental protection and actions to address famine, hunger and poverty.
Folks from my generation can just barely remember Ravi Shankar and George Harrison organizing Concerts for Bangladesh to help raise funds to help refugees from that country in 1971. A decade and a half later, there was the album We Are The World, intended to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia in 1985. Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson wrote the title song for the album.
And long before Hurricane Katrina's devastating blow to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005, there was New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, with the Neville Brothers playing a prominent role in the organization's efforts to fight poverty in New Orleans (with participation of nationally known recording artists like Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffet).
Much of the recent focus has been on the Irish rock band U2 and its leader Bono (along with dozens of rock groups like Coldplay) and their efforts to end global poverty and disease. As we all know, Bono was prominent in creating The ONE Campaign. His efforts were initially channeled through an organization he created called DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa).
Few people are aware of John Denver's involvement in the anti-hunger movement. When someone mentioned his name, I usually thought of the song Take Me Home Country Roads or the sweet ballads Today or Annie's Song or of the mild mannered grocery clerk who encounters George Burns in the movie Oh God!
But did you know that John Denver, a native New Mexican, served on President Jimmy Carter's Hunger Commission? In fact, he wrote the song I Want to Live while serving on the commission. Here is an excerpt: We are standing all together...face to face and arm in arm...We are standing on the threshold of a dream...No more hunger, no more killing...no more wasting like a way..It is simply an idea...and I know its time has come....
And did you know that John Denver also wrote a song about the plight of refugees everywhere? That song, Falling Leaves, is also one of the pieces that inspired Hank Bruce, a Bread for the World member from Rio Rancho, N.M., to write an entire book called Peace Beyond All Fear: A Tribute to John Denver's Vision.
For Hank and his wife Tomi Jill Folk, I Want to Live, has an even deeper meaning. It is the unofficial theme song for organization they helped create called Hunger Grow Away, which uses gardening as a means to fight hunger in the U.S. and around the world
Hank's book, a collection of 15 stories based on John Denver's songs, celebrates peace, the environment and the human spirit. The stories are inspired by the singer's music; they are not the stories behind his songs.
"As we rediscovered some of the other songs and learned more of the amazing amount of work he did for peace, hunger solutions, the environment and the human condition we amassed a good collection of his work, including some that was never officially recorded, or was little heard in this country," said Hank. "As I listened to these songs, and learned more about this genius humanitarian, stories appeared."
Click here for another blog post with slightly more details about the book.
All proceeds from the sale of the book (which retails for $19.95) will be donated to Hunger Grow Away. The book will be available through Petals and Pages Press (a
publishing company that handles Hunger Grow Away materials) on Sept.
20. Send them an e-mail if you would like to purchase a copy of the book. The book will be sold at bookstores and through Amazon.com on Oct. 1.
The release of the book will be part of a global celebration, 11 Days of Peace, put together by We The World, a place where the many movements for social change come together in an ongoing mass public education and mobilization campaign for Peace on Earth and Peace With Earth.
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