Switched On Pop | How John Denver got huge in Asia
A podcast breaking down the music of pop hits.
Switched On Pop
Published 07 March 2023
John Denver

Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a song about West Virginia, but its message of homecoming has resonance far beyond Appalachia.

Songwriter and producer Ian Fitchuk found this out when he was requested to perform Denver’s music at a music festival in Tibet. Fitchuk discovered that Denver has a huge following in East and South East Asia, where Denver toured multiple times from the 70s through the 90s.

Denver’s songs first came to the region through the US Armed Forces Network radio as well as a diplomatic performance for China’s leader Deng Xiaoping at the Kennedy Center in 1979. Denver performed alongside the Harlem Globetrotters and the Joffrey ballet, and he left such an impression, the show led to an invitation to be one of the first western musicians to tour China.

To better understand Denver’s meaning in the region, Switched On Pop co-host Charlie Harding speaks with Ian Fitchuk about his performance and interviews journalist Jason Jeung who wrote about “Country Roads” in The Atlantic.

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