John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen censored |

John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen censored

Charles Agar
Vail, CO Colorado

Visit the John Denver Sanctuary and you’d think the iconic singer never smoked pot.

John Denver will live forever in the minds and hearts of Coloradoans, but the lyrics etched in stone obelisks at the riverside park have been cleaned of scandalous references.

In the song “Poems, Prayers and Promises,” the verse about how Denver has “known my lady’s pleasures” is missing. And instead of reading “my friends and my old lady sit and pass a pipe around” as in the original, the stone reads, “my friends and my old lady sit and watch the sun go down.”

The last verse of “Rocky Mountain High,” which includes the line “Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high” is conspicuously absent also.

“The lyrics were chosen by the family and provided to us in that way,” said Stephen Ellsperman, the city’s parks and open space director. The sanctuary was completed in 2000.

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Denver’s brother Ron Deutschendorf was shocked to hear the lyrics were altered.

“My brother didn’t write it that way and he never sang it that way,” Deutschendorf said. “He’d be pissed like I’m pissed. It’s just not right.”

Deutschendorf said he remembers the 1972 controversy when Denver admitted he smokes marijuana in Australia.

“If you’re going to make a tribute to someone, you should do your best to be accurate,” Deutschendorf said.

But Denver’s brother said he had nothing to do with the creation of the monument, adding that the changes sounded like “Annie’s stuff.”

Annie Denver, Denver’s ex-wife, could not be reached for comment.

The sanctuary was funded partly by private contributions and the city of Aspen. The stones are in a grassy amphitheater overlooking a Roaring Fork River riparian zone. And the site was chosen as a tribute to Denver’s desire to “foster environmental responsibility,” Ellsperman said.

“It’s meant to be an interactive sanctuary more than a memorial. A place where people can explore,” Ellsperman said.

Each year, volunteers come to the park and do upkeep, add plants and clean the popular spot, and the sanctuary is a “very popular attraction” in summer, Ellsperman said.

“People gravitate towards it,” Ellsperman said.

Deutschendorf was quick to point out that in the line of tributes to his brother, the Windstar Foundation planned to release a digitally remastered tribute album featuring Denver playing in Russia.

“It’s just John and his guitar,” Deutschendorf said, and you can hear every twang of the strings and trill of his voice.

It took a long time to find the right organization to produce the album that would respect John’s music, Deutschendorf said.

“John deserves this kind of class act because he was a class act,” Deutschendorf said.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is

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