Chris Wilson was born in 1976 when folk pop singer John Denver filled arenas and stadiums with feel-good music about the fame and beauty of nature. Wilson’s folk singer mother filled the family home with many Denver songs until the 1980s.
And then a young Chris Wilson noticed something.
“Up until then, I was kind of sad that it looked like a lot of (radio) people weren’t playing these songs that much anymore,” said Wilson, speaking on the phone from his home in Rochester, New York. “And it seemed like these songs were fading away.”
Wilson, 43, will take his rendition of a number of late Denver’s most popular hits on February 21st at 7pm at North Christian Church for a 90-minute fundraising concert that will benefit the Columbus-based Granny Connection. The non-profit organization cares for children orphaned by the AIDS crisis in Lusaka, Zambia.
A pre-concert barbecue dinner is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Food and concert tickets are $ 35 upfront and $ 40 at the door.
Denver died in 1997 at the age of 53 when the test aircraft he was piloting crashed in Monterey Bay, California.
The musician’s concerts in honor of Denver began in 2014 when he released a CD entitled “A Lovely Space To Be: The Music of John Denver”. The first concert at a 400-seat venue in Rochester sold out in two days. He mixes some of his own folk-oriented melodies into the performances.
As much as he loved Denver’s music, he felt a little scared.
“At first there was some concern that I might be typed in the role of the John Denver guy,” said Wilson. “So I was a little nervous. But I love to celebrate great material. And I know that John Denver is an interesting character to a lot of people.
“And I know there are a lot of people out there who love John Denver (and his songs) very much, but don’t necessarily admit it. That is why we describe these shows as a guilty pleasure. “
Denver has had more than 30 Billboard hits, including “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High” (an official state song of Colorado), “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” and “Back Home “Again:” Thank God, I’m a country boy “,” Annie’s song “,” Calypso “and many others.
“His songs are part of Americana DNA,” said Wilson. “When most people hear the opening of Take Me Home, Country Roads, they just automatically know.”
The format for his tribute-oriented shows is to mix a part of Denver’s life and lyrics with his own life to create a deeper connection with the audience.
“I present his songs as a kind of soundtrack to my personal story,” said Wilson. “I certainly don’t pretend to be him in concert or even to sound like him.”
However, when some viewers get lost in the mood of the past, their emotional exuberance later led them to tell the artist, “You sound just like John Denver.” Granted, Wilson accepts such a compliment, although he agrees that the artistic one The quality and tone of his voice and that of Denver differ significantly.
With well-known, softer numbers like “Annie’s Song”, however, it sounds like a more technically sophisticated version of Denver.
The Granny Connection’s Ann Jones wants nothing better than seeing the 400-seat local venue for the performance. She noted that the event is the organization’s top fundraiser of the year, “and it really matters to these children and grandmothers in Zambia.”
About the event
What: Fundraising dinner and concert with internationally touring folk-pop artist Chris Wilson presenting classic John Denver songs interspersed with some of his own material
When: A barbecue dinner is scheduled at 5:30 p.m., followed by the 9:00 p.m. concert on February 21st
Where: North Christian Church, 850 Tipton Lane, Columbus
Why: To raise money for Granny Connection’s community service, which cares for children orphaned by the AIDS crisis in Lusaka, Zambia
Tickets: The meal and concert cost $ 35 in advance at Viewpoint Books in Columbus or online at grannyconnection.org or $ 40 at the door