Song Analysis – “Leaving on a Jet Plane” – John Denver

[It might be easier to name the musicians who haven’t covered this song than to name everyone who has.

Peter, Paul, and Mary, Janis Joplin, Fiona Apple, Frank Sinatra, Chantal Kreviazuk, Glee, and, I kid you

not, Mos Def have all recorded versions. Folk rocker John Denver wrote this classic song. With simple words, he

captures the heartbreak of leaving his beloved.]

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go.

I’m standing here outside your door

I hate to wake you up to say Goodbye

[Part of what makes this song so moving is that people from all walks of life can relate to it. How many

people have gotten up early to leave for a long trip, to start school, or to move to a new place? The line,

“I hate to wake you . . .” is touching because it conveys a sweet sensitivity. On one hand, he wants to have

a final farewell, but on the other hand, he feels it might be easier if he just left while she was asleep.]

But the dawn is breaking it’s early morn

The taxi’s waiting he’s blowin’ his horn

Already I’m so lonesome I could die

[As fans of the “Twilight” series should know, “breaking dawn” means the first minutes of the day, roughly

3 or 4 a.m. “Morn” is a poetic form of morning. Writers seldom use poetic forms any more, but a few of

these examples might be familiar: “neath” for beneath, “twas” for it was, “tween” for between. Embarking on

a new phase of life, while exciting can be awfully isolating.]


So kiss me and smile for me

Tell me that you’ll wait for me

Hold me like you’ll never let me go ’cause I’m leaving on a Jet Plane

Don’t know when I’ll be back again

Oh babe I hate to go

[It is all very poignant, but I have to explore, “Tell me that you’ll wait for me.” You might get a promise

but that promise is not worth much as it’s obtained under emotional duress. Here you get the sense that this

isn’t just a Spring Break jaunt, it’s something more long-term. But the exact length of the absence isn’t as

important as the feeling of loss.]

There’s so many times I’ve let you down

So many times I’ve played around

I tell you now that they don’t mean a thing

[He apologizes for all the mistakes he’s made in their relationship. He explains that his dalliances meant

nothing to him.]

Everyplace I go I’ll think of you

Every song I sing I’ll sing for you

When I come back I’ll bring your wedding ring

[He’s saying that no matter where he goes, he carries her in his heart. This version says “bring your

wedding ring.” Other versions say, “wear your wedding ring.” It might depend on whether the singer is a man

or a woman. So at this point of the song we realize the couple is engaged, even though they will be apart

from each other.]


Now the time has come to leave you

One more time let me kiss you

Close your eyes I’ll be on my way

Dream about the days to come

When I won’t have to leave alone

About the times I won’t have to say…

[He expresses sadness again about leaving, but he dreams about a time sometime in the future when the two

will take trips together. He wants to be with her, even though he knows he has to leave her for now. There

is a fear, an anxiety that this relationship will not weather this absence. And yet, it ends on a hopeful note

with the promise of a love that will last forever.]



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