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Denver's music mournful background for his funeral

photo of Denver October 17, 1997
Web posted at: 12:24 p.m. EDT (1624 GMT)

DENVER (CNN) -- Hundreds of friends, family members and fans of John Denver gathered Friday for a memorial service to say good-bye to the musician who won America's heart by singing about the splendor of the Rocky Mountains.

Under brilliant blue skies, Denver's music somberly carried across the church parking lot before the service as mourners -- many dressed in casual clothes -- lined up outside. Some lip-synched the familiar tunes while fighting back tears.

"I am so sorry he died but so very, very happy he lived," Denver's close friend, Tom Crumb, said during the service in a voice cracking with emotion. "Even though I have tears up here, it's a time of celebration for this person's life. He was such a great spirit."

The service began around 10 a.m. (1600 GMT) at Faith Presbyterian Church in suburban Aurora, a church attended by the singer's mother since the 1970s. At the front of the church, a large picture of the singer was unveiled just before the service began. There was no coffin; the singer was cremated.

people outside church

More than 1,000 people gathered inside the main sanctuary. The funeral ceremony was to be piped into two other church rooms where another 1,000 could sit.

The boyish-looking singer, songwriter and environmental activist died Sunday at age 53 when his experimental plane crashed in California's Monterey Bay.

A separate service was planned in Aspen, Colorado, on Saturday. Denver fell in love with the area on a trip there in 1967, and made it his home.

Denver's career took off in the 1970s when he began singing about the beauty of the Rockies, and eight of his albums went platinum. Among his best-loved songs were "Rocky Mountain High" and "Take Me Home Country Roads."

Born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. in Roswell, New Mexico, where his father was stationed in the military, the singer adopted his stage name from the Colorado capital.


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