UnNews:John Denver's wife gives advice to other women married to guitar players

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3 June 2012

Cassandra Denver

Cassandra Denver

SYDNEY, Australia -- If there was ever a woman wrongfully criticized it would be my dear friend Cassandra Denver. Her much publicized six year relationship with singer and guitarist, John Denver, has left a lasting impression on the Australian, who, although remarkably forgiving, admits to sometimes sitting quietly, reflecting on the exciting times and ultimate hurts within her marriage - the hurts predominately caused by her husband's many admirers, seemingly unable to accept her as John's wife.

To share the person you love with millions - most of which believed themselves to be Denver's "true love" - is an eery experience at best. Fans of the singer will spontaneously fizzle and pop at the very mention of Cassandra's name. I asked a lady in Arkansas how she could possibly formulate her opinion so readily having never even met Cassandra? She stared blankly. I reworded the question, "well he was on the stage one time and looked at me, I know what he meant", hmm so do I. I can't help but think of Priscilla Presley, another woman who's only wrong move was marriage to the person she loved.

So how did the strain of constant media attention on Cassandra, manifest itself in John? I asked Cassandra who gave me a somewhat shocking answer - she is sure he suffered from a little-known addiction called CHAG, constantly holding a guitar, a condition where the guitarist cannot get through the day without their guitar strapped to themselves. An advocate for CHAG, Yoko Ono, has recently shared her insight into John Lennon's own struggle with the addiction: "He would put the red guitar, I think it was a Fender, in between us at night, I got my hair caught in the strings many times, by 1980, he sought help and was able to put the guitar over our bed. I worried it might fall down, hm."

To get a complete answer, I would have to meet with Cassandra.

The irony always on meeting her, is her approachable nature. This woman, given such an awful bashing in the past is politely ordering coffee as I arrive. Immediately, the most striking feature is her eyes. Eyes never lie and hers portray a woman who knows herself fully. There is a twinkle of humor, as though she could easily set a few things straight but doesn't feel the need anymore. Her daughter, Jesse, is living prove she no longer has to justify herself to anyone. Were you and John really considering reuniting? "Yes, in the last few weeks of his life we realized it was silly to be apart when we clearly loved each other." I ask her about his addiction? "Each night, during our marriage, John insisted he do everything whilst holding his guitar and it got in the way of being together as closely as before, a guitar is around three inches deep, a small measurement but significant space between us." Is that what the song Looking For Space is about? "Yes, exactly. There was just never enough space for us and the Taylor. Beautiful guitar but not required at the time."

At this point in our conversation, Cassandra is recognized and graciously talks to a couple who are the biggest John Denver fans. She signs an autograph and smiles at me after the couple leave - autograph tightly clenched between them. The twinkle in her eye returns and I feel I know what she is thinking. Has it been tough to always be thought of as Mrs. Denver and not Cassandra with her own musical and artistic career? "Yes, sometimes but John was an adventure that I wouldn't change, he built the performer "John Denver" from nothing and people see that image and often nothing else."

The other association with John Denver is his love of flying. In 1996 John was told by the F.A.A that he must desist playing his guitar while flying or risk losing his license. He began taking a Baby Taylor instead. "John was a person like that. He brought the addiction to CHAG down to a small sized guitar but never fully let it go. We talked about what it would be like when we get together again and he told me he would try to only hold a plastic novelty guitar when he's around me and my daughter. Time wasn't to be."

John tragically passed away on October 12th 1997. It seems he was finally ready to admit his faults and start again with Cassandra, no doubt assisting her in writing songs. The last question I ask is what other women should do if they are married to a guitarist with CHAG? "In the early stages of the addiction, your husband may ignore you and become angry if you try to take the guitar away. You should buy him one of those ridiculous-sized Mexican guitars and he'll soon know he has a problem. He'll slowly downsize to Jumbos, traditional shapes, Concert size, electro-acoustic, slimline, Banjo and finally plastic novelty guitars. I know John would finally do other things now, like paint. His artistic gene is all around me now, our daughter continues where he left off."

Cassandra still performs and you may contact UnNews for a detailed list of dates. I feel Cassandra has proven that there are good and bad aspects to our lives but it is possible to get over obstacles and succeed in doing what makes us happy. There aren't many who can say they were married to one of the greatest songwriters ever but there are even fewer who can say they knew the real man behind the performer, John Denver.

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