One last fun fact about this song: In the late 80s, New Order released a song called ‘Run’ which they later remixed for a 12″ single titled ‘Run 2.’ Either John Denver or his publishing company (depending on which source you read) believed ‘Run 2’ closely resembled ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ in parts. They successfully sued, preventing the re-release of the single and earning Denver songwriting credit on the track.
John Denver made the interesting decision to release a greatest hits album just four years into his solo career. To be fair, he had released seven studio albums by that time, including one just a few months earlier, but he wasn’t exactly a hit machine. Only three of his songs had reached Billboard’s top ten.
Denver re-recorded more than half of the songs, believing he had grown as an artist and a singer over the years and owed these tracks a revisit. One of those new recordings was ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane.’
Peter, Paul and Mary scored their only #1 hit with ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ in 1969, but John Denver released his own version that year as well. Nestled on Side B of his sophomore album Rhymes & Reasons, it was one of only three original compositions on the record.
This version of the song was recently used for the opening of an episode of Barry, a dark HBO comedy starring Bill Hader as a hitman trying to succeed in Hollywood. That scene reminded me of how much I love this song and led to this theme week, so you can either thank or blame Bill Hader.
John Denver recorded his demo of ‘Babe, I Hate to Go’ in 1966, but the song got its first proper release a year later as ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ by Peter, Paul and Mary, appearing on their eighth album, titled Album 1700.
The trio released the song as a single two years later and wound up with their first (and only) #1 Billboard hit. For many people, this is the version of the song they know best.
And after some digging, I realized I dislike pretty much everything else the man has recorded. So there’s that.