John Denver and Christmas go hand in hand. From Christmas albums to movies and television specials.....John showed his love of the season time and time again. Thankfully, each year we can all watch, listen, and enjoy his contributions to this wonderful time of year. In the past, I have written about John time and time again. This year I wanted to do something a little different. Since I have been watching all of his old Christmas specials, it seemed like a good idea to write about them as the countdown to Christmas continues. So here they are, ranked and reviewed.
#4: Rocky Mountain Christmas
This special opens with a beautiful rendition of "Aspenglow" and there are plenty of beautiful scenes to enjoy. Snow, skiing, and celebrity guests make up this classic Christmas special. It originally aired in 1975 but sadly, the versions online are fairly low quality. That being said...it is classic John. It does a wonderful job of highlighting the stunning wilderness and shows John interacting with stars of the time. (Including an iconic duet with Olivia Newton John on "Fly Away.") Rocky Mountain Christmas strikes a good balance between tugging at the heartstrings and having a good time. Oh, and there are plenty of montages and skits to be found! If that makes you smile, this special will be right up your alley. With lots of fantastic songs and wintery wonder to enjoy, this is a fantastic special to spend some time with. The reason it is lowest ranked on my list isn't because it lacks anything in particular. I absolutely love it! I just happen to love the others a smidge more.
#3: Christmas In Aspen
The next special on my list is the 1988 classic, Christmas in Aspen. This one is one that I watch over and over again each year. It features some incredible 80s fashion (as you can see above), lots of environmentalism, incredible views of John's home of Aspen, and some fantastic performances. There are also celebrities from around the world and a live audience. My favourite segments from this special have to be the on stage ones.....where he wears an ugly sweater and sings to local residents. It also talks a lot about the community of Aspen, the history of the area, and more. John's passion about Colorado was unmatched and it shines through in this beautiful Christmas special. One downside of this special is the inclusion of John's then second wife, Cassie. Though the song he performed for her is one of my all-time favourites, she looks unhappy the entire time she appears on screen. It is a bit of a downer in such a lovely and cheerful holiday special! That aside, this is a wonderful celebration of the season and it really showcases John's passion for everything he loved.
#2: John Denver and the Muppets - A Christmas Together
It is no exaggeration that this Christmas special changed my (musical) life. Because of this special, John Denver became a part of my childhood. My mom bought the soundtrack to this special a very long time ago and we listened to it - and have continued to listen to it - every single Christmas since. (It even made my number one spot of my top five favourite Christmas CDs.) Believe it or not, I only saw the actual television special for the first time a few years ago. It hasn't been released on DVD, it doesn't get played on TV, and I couldn't find it online for ages. Then suddenly...there it was! It was thrilling to see the live performances of the songs I had listened to thousands of times. Standout scenes include: the Twelve Days of Christmas (featuring lots and lots of Muppets), every time Miss Piggy calls John, Johnathan (and when she gets him to take off his glasses), the song Alfie/It's In Every One Of Us, and A Baby Just Like You. This special is heartwarming, touching, and still full of fun and whimsy. It is perfection from start to finish.
#1: Montana Christmas Skies
Now, it is time to crown what is (in my opinion) the best John Denver Christmas special. Yes, it is Montana Christmas Skies. Why this special in particular? It is a combination of things. The fact that it aired in 1991 (making it the newest special) might have something to do with it....but I think it is more to do with the overall feel the special has. It is warm, cozy, and rustic. The special opens with a gorgeous montage of footage from Montana with the song "Christmas For Cowboys" playing delicately. The focus on nature and the history of the land inspires me so much....especially because I know how much it meant to John. This special truly gives you the opportunity to see the world through his eyes. It is thrilling. The barn setting is probably my favourite, because it has this quaint simplicity that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This particular special certainly has more of a country feel than his others (which are more folk-pop) but it works well. Something I really enjoy about this special is that the bulk of it is made up of live performances. There are plenty of holiday songs and a collection of John's biggest hits. It is 45 minutes of musical perfection.
There you have it! My ranking and review of each John Denver Christmas special. All of them have a special place in my heart for different reasons....and I just love to watch them. One thing is certain: John Denver will never be forgotten. His legacy lives on each and every holiday season.
Which special is your favourite?