DenverAs far back as I can remember, I’ve always liked buying live music recordings. Live albums, live eight tracks, live cassettes, live CD’s, and live downloads. I love the music, and I love listening to the performer. I like live music because when I hear it live, it allows me to believe the music.

One of my favorite live recordings, which I still love to listen to, is RCA’s, “An Evening with John Denver.” Recorded in 1974 and released in 1975, the music is just amazing. He performed it live, and both the songs and the music are wonderful. You see, when John Denver sang, you believed him. But why did we believe him?

  • Was it the actual songs he wrote and sang? Well, they were beautiful, but actually fairly simple.
  • Was it his voice? Again, he had a beautiful voice, but there are others with better voices, and richer sounds.

So, what was it? I think it was a couple of things. First, it was the things he would share before and after each song. I enjoyed those moments every bit as much, if not more, than the songs he was performing. When John Denver would tell you what he was thinking, or doing, or feeling, it didn’t change the sound he was making when he sang, but it changed our perception of the sound he was making. It made us believe.

It is those ad-libs, those spontaneous reactions to what is around us, those improvisational moments that cannot be scripted or prepared for in advance, that truly make us believable. What a strange irony: The more rehearsed we are, and the more perfection we attempt to achieve, the less believable we often are.

The second thing – and perhaps the most important thing – is that unlike a studio, it isn’t a perfect sound. As a matter of fact, in one particular song, John Denver’s voice noticeably cracks. I can tell you exactly where it is because that crack in his voice made it my favorite song on the album. (For the record, and with no use of the Internet, it’s in the third verse of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”) It was that imperfection that made that song so believable to me. It was that imperfection that made me love that album, and that performer, even more. It was never about getting everything perfect; it was about making everything believable.

It is those less than perfect moments that make us human, and more importantly, relatable. I wasn’t there when John Denver’s voice cracked, but whenever I hear it, I can imagine his big, broad smile when it occurred. People can believe an imperfection, and people will love the smile that celebrates that imperfection. There is a tension that goes along with trying to achieve perfection, so a small mistake can be something the audience can embrace and perhaps identify with.

John Denver made over 33 million dollars in record sales, and he was beloved by so many for his voice, his music, and his lyrics. For me, I appreciated his ability to connect with his audience, and his willingness to stand tall during his less than perfect moments. That’s a lesson in believability we can all learn from.

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  1. So true, I remember that crack too! What a great lesson.

  2. Lorne Epstein says:

    Well written Rob. Thanks for sharing

    • Robert L. Jolles says:

      That carefree conversational style, treating the audience like they were your personal friends had an impact on me. Thanks for posting Lorne.

  3. Rob, a meaniingful and truly enjoyable read!

  4. Tony Shore says:

    I remember that crack as well and agree that it added to the song. Interestingly, he did not write that song or Take Me Home Country Roads, they were written primarily by Bill Danoff who says that the country road in the song was not in West Virginia but in Boyds, (Montgomery County) Maryland.

    • Mike Barry says:

      That’s a fun fact for this former Boyds resident! Drive W Old Baltimore Rd past Shiloh Church Rd for a taste of a still-country road, perhaps the very road of inspiration!

    • Robert L. Jolles says:

      Imagine the sense of a country road over 50 years ago in that entire area! As a diehard Marylander I’m proud to have my state connected to this song. Great post men!

  5. Stephen Vondrak says:

    Hi Rob,
    Well said. No one likes insincere comments or to hear a script being read. Presenting whatever you do, to an audience or a prospect, from the heart will always resonate. The quirks (flaws?) that make us individuals, are also what makes us believable and, in turn, successful. Thanks again.

    • Robert L. Jolles says:

      Pretty amazing when you think the instinct is typically to over-prepare which muffles your ability to come from the heart. Thanks for posting Stephen.

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