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.
In fact, by coincidence or cosmic fate, John Denver’s songs were featured in no fewer than five films last year, including the Kingsman and Alien sequels and the crime film Free Fire.
Two of these picks are performed by characters in the films, one is played through headphones by a character in the film, one is a song used as score and the last is a traditional instrumental score (and a bit of a cheat, as I’ll explain when I get there).
Where possible, I’ll embed a clip of the actual scene as well as the original song.