August 18

John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane:” An Anthem For Long-Distance Love

Did you know that John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane” was initially titled “Babe I Hate To Go?” It was included on his debut demo album John Denver Sings. However, his then-producer, Milt Okun, persuaded him to replace it, so he gave the song a new name.

While it was one of the most famous singles of Denver, it sadly failed to enter the chart. It was the American folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary that actually made it popular – becoming the group’s only No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Their version was also heard in the United Airlines’ commercials during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Story Behind The Song 

“Leaving On A Jet Plane” is one of John Denver’s songs penned before he embarked on a solo career and as one of the members of the Chad Mitchell Trio. 

Written during a layover at Washington Airport in 1966, the song tells the tale of a man who left home with a heavy heart. He went on his journey despite the sad thought of leaving his loved one behind – without any idea “when I’ll be back again.”

John Denver said that “Leaving On A Jet Plane” is a very personal and special song for him. In fact, it only took him just a couple of hours to finish the wistful ballad. He even made several record copies of it to give them out as Christmas presents. 

RELATED: Relive John Denver & Cass Elliot’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”

And while he’s glad it became a hit, it still “strikes a lonely and anguished chord in me because the separation still continues,” he said. After all, there’s no joy in the thought of “leaving someone you care for very much.”

You can listen to “Leaving On A Jet Plane” by John Denver in the video below.


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