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John Denver Receives Colorado Award

DENVER — Nearly five years after his death, John Denver was inducted into the Colorado Performing Arts Hall of Fame.

The singer was named to the hall late Monday, joining Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Glenn Miller, Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne and others.

"I think John would have been very happy. He always wanted his music to live on," said Annie Denver, his first wife and the inspiration for several of his most popular ballads.

She also was pleased with "Almost Heaven: Songs and Stories of John Denver," a musical that tells his life story. It opened last week at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and a performance preceded Monday's ceremony.

Annie Denver said the singer never got over the rejection of his music by many critics. "I think it hurt because he grew up as an outsider," she said.

Ron Deutschendorf, John Denver's brother, "came expecting to be disappointed (by the musical) and I was pleasantly surprised."

"People never understood John," he said. Some Vietnam War opponents thought Denver was ambiguous about the conflict. "John was anti-Vietnam War. He just wasn't anti-American. When people confronted him about the war, he would say, 'I have a brother over there. Don't tell me about it,'" said Deutschendorf, a Vietnam veteran.

"The show was difficult for some of us to watch, especially when we saw his face on the screen. It really is special, though. He said some good things."

Denver died in October 1997 at age 53, when his experimental plane crashed off the California coast. He's best-known for such songs as "Sunshine on My Shoulders," "Country Roads" and "Rocky Mountain High."