John Denver cherished his private life when he wasn’t on stage, buddy says “he would at all times miss the youngsters”

Bruce Gordon’s life was forever influenced after he befriended John Denver.

The singer / songwriter, known for his sunny hits from the 70s like “Rocky Mountain High” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, was killed instantly in 1997 when his experimental plane crashed in Monterey Bay. He was 53.

His pal, the founder of the nonprofit EcoFlight, said in the latest issue of Closer Weekly that the star is a complex character who cares deeply about the environment.

“It’s not easy to be sensitive, thoughtful, mindful, and caring,” Gordon told the point of sale.

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The American country singer and songwriter John Denver is known to find solace in nature.
(Photo by Luciano Viti / Getty Images)

During his lifetime, Denver quickly became a popular musical figure. Fourteen of his albums went gold and eight went platinum, with more than a million units sold. The LP “John Denver’s Greatest Hits” is one of the best-selling albums in the history of RCA Records with over 10 million copies sold worldwide. In 1975 he was named Country Music Entertainer of the Year.

But, according to Gordon, it was his family – not success – that always came first for the star.

“He’s been talking about the kids the whole time,” Gordon told the point of sale. “He would always miss the children.”

Denver leaves behind three children: Jessie Belle, Anna Kate, and Zachary.

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Jesse Belle Denver (L) and Zachary Deutschendorf, John Denver's children, attend the ceremony honoring their father John Denver with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 24, 2014 in Hollywood, California.,

Jesse Belle Denver (L) and Zachary Deutschendorf, John Denver’s children, attend the ceremony honoring their father John Denver with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 24, 2014 in Hollywood, California.,
(Photo by Chelsea Lauren / WireImage / Getty Images)

“He liked being home,” said Gordon. “And he was the happiest in nature – whether walking, sitting by a waterfall or diving.

According to Gordon, Denver devoted more time to environmental activism in his later years – and many people wondered if the star would be involved in politics.

“A lot of people wanted him to run for office, but he felt he could do more by influencing people without being a politician,” he said.

Denver made this sentiment known to the public in his lifetime.

“Music brings people together,” Denver once said. “It enables us to experience the same emotions. People are the same in hearts and minds everywhere. No matter what language we speak, what skin color we have, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: we are equal.”

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The American musician John Denver (1943-1997) performed on August 9, 1982 at the Chicago Festival in Chicago, Illinois.

The American musician John Denver (1943-1997) performed on August 9, 1982 at the Chicago Festival in Chicago, Illinois.
(Photo by Paul Natkin / Getty Images)

Denver, a licensed pilot, had an earlier airplane accident in April 1989. He walked away unharmed after the 1931 biplane he was piloting spun while taxiing at an airport in northern Arizona.

“We’re all very broken about it,” said family friend Jerry McClain at the time of Denver’s death. “The person John was in public was who he was personally.”

And while the revered artist came to a tragic end, his family is determined to keep his legacy alive.

According to the point of sale, Denver’s children work with Brian Schwartz. The estate manager hopes to be able to put together a film about Denver’s life, a documentary about his commitment and a Broadway musical based on his songbook.

“John left a legacy, not just in music, but also in his environmental and social activism,” Schwartz told the point of sale. “The most important thing we do is make sure his message continues to reach new audiences.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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