As the son of a distinguished US Air Force pilot, it was not unnatural that Denver would qualify as a pilot himself, but he entertained far greater ambitions, including that of becoming the first civilian in space. He was also active in the humanitarian and anti-war movements, and visited the then Soviet Union in the 1980s, collaborating with the Russian singer-songwriter Alexander Gradsky to record an anti-arms race song
. Like the US, the Soviets had an ambitious space program, having launched both the first satellite - Sputnik I - and put the first man in space - Yuri Gagarin. According to Denver's biographer, John Collis, he was reputed to have offered the Soviets $10 million to fly him up to their Mir space station so that he could "sing down to the world."
But Denver's dream was no fantasy, and at home he underwent a NASA induction program, reaching the shortlist. He was not to be the first civilian in space however, that dubious privilege went - or nearly went - to the American teacher Christa McAuliffe
, who together with her fellow crew members, perished in the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986 when the rocket exploded less than two minutes after blasting off from Cape Canaveral. The tragedy was captured live on camera and was of course worldwide news. Denver was making a film on location at the time, but received a phone call from his son telling him what had happened; that evening as he sat glued to the TV news he found himself sitting guitar in hand, and "playing kind of a meditation as I watched what was going on."
"Flying For Me" evolved out of that meditation. Denver made a moving video to accompany the song as a tribute to McAuliffe and her crew mates. Its simple message was that they were flying for all of us. John Collis, a critical rather than an adoring fan, said this is one of Denver's finest songs. And who could disagree?
Alexander Baron - London, England