Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., otherwise known as John Denver, moved to Los Angeles in 1963 to start his career in music at the age of 20. Shortly after, he was selected to join the band Mitchell Trio as a vocalist, where he found his own groove within singing and songwriting. By the late 1960’s, he decided to go solo, creating the music we all know and love today, like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and “Rocky Mountain High.”
In 1997, at the age of 53, Denver tragically died in a plane crash. His songs famously live on today, and we celebrate his contributions to American music each time we hear a song on the radio or perform them live on the stage.
Tom Becker, a known John Denver tribute artist, will join the Long Bay Symphony on October 21st to carry on the legacy of both John Denver and Glen Campbell, two American musical icons.
Becker began his musical journey at the age of 12 when his dad gifted him a Sears Silvertone guitar for Christmas.
“After I got better at the guitar than he did, he quit playing,” Becker told me.
Becker found inspiration in the music of John Denver, James Taylor, Jim Croce, and Glen Campbell. By his early twenties, he regularly performed in clubs in the Chicago area until he got the chance to audition with the New Christy Minstrels, a folk group from the 1960’s. After landing the audition, Becker toured for three years, performing all over the United States and Europe.
“It was one of the best musical experiences of my life,” Becker said. “During that time, I started honing my songwriting skills. Eventually my original songs became a regular part of the group’s performances.”
After leaving the New Christy Minstrels, Becker moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he continued writing his own songs, one of which was selected as the Official Commemorative Song for the Navy Memorial dedication in Washington, DC. “Sailor” was inspired in part by John Denver.
Becker started performing in various locations across the country, often coming back to Nashville to write more of his own songs. On one of these trips back to Nashville, he met Michelle, a fellow singer/songwriter.
“When I returned to Colorado, I called her about some song ideas but we ended up connecting on a whole other level. I even wrote a song about it. It ended up being our love song. Needless to say, I moved back to Nashville to be with her.”
As a musical duo, they decided to call themselves “Latitudes.” They played music together in Nashville for a time before receiving a phone call for a gig in Myrtle Beach. One year later, Michelle and Becker were married and decided to call South Carolina home.
“We’ve been lucky to have found a niche here and are blessed to have some amazing fans who love our original music.”
“In recent years, I began to feel that John Denver’s music and message were more important than ever. John was talking about environmental issues long before today’s emphasis on ‘going green.’ Not to mention you rarely hear his music on the radio.”
Because of this, Becker and Michelle decided to put a tribute band together titled “Back Home Again –A Tribute to John Denver,” and have performed in theaters all over the country. Their first symphony show was with—none other than—the Long Bay Symphony in 2011. Since then, they have performed with the Sarasota Pops Orchestra, the Elgin Symphony, Texas A&M Symphony, and more.
“John’s music has always spoken to me, but it was his message about protecting our planet that really did it for me,” Becker said. “I wanted to ‘walk the talk’ concerning John’s mission to bring awareness for protecting our environment.”
In an effort to continue John Denver’s work for the environment, Becker and his band donate portions of CD and DVD sales to Plant It 2020, a John Denver foundation that performs worldwide tree-planting, donates fuel-efficient cooking stoves to needy families, and provides forestry, soil, and biochar education. So far, through their John Denver tribute shows, Becker and his band have planted over 4,000 trees in Denver’s name.
“We’re so looking forward to sharing the stage again with conductor Dr. Charles Evans and The Long Bay Symphony,” Becker said. “There's nothing that compares to performing on stage with an orchestra. The sound and feeling are simply amazing.”
To learn more about Tom and Michelle Becker, be sure to check them out online at www.tomandmichellemusic.com .
To learn more about Plant It 2020, visit https://plantit2020.org.