Leaving on a Jet Plane

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"Leaving on a Jet Plane"
Single by John Denver
from the album Rhymes & Reasons
B-side"Jimmy Newman"
ReleasedOctober 1969
Songwriter(s)John Denver
Producer(s)Milton Okun
John Denver singles chronology
"Leaving on a Jet Plane"

"Leaving on a Jet Plane" is a song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter John Denver[1] in 1966, originally included on his debut demo recording John Denver Sings as "Babe I Hate to Go". He made several copies and gave them out as presents for Christmas of that year.[2] Denver's then producer Milt Okun convinced him to change the title; the song was renamed "Leaving on a Jet Plane" in 1967.

In 1969, simultaneous to the success of the Peter, Paul and Mary version, Denver recorded the song again for his debut studio album, Rhymes & Reasons, and it was released as a single in October 1969 through RCA Records.[3] Although it is one of John Denver's best known songs, his single failed to enter the charts.

"Leaving on a Jet Plane" was re-recorded for the third and final time in 1973 for John Denver's Greatest Hits, the version that also appears on most of his compilation albums.


John Denver, then a relatively unknown 23 year old musician in the Los Angeles folk scene, wrote the song during a layover at Washington National Airport in 1966.

In one of his BBC Radio specials, Denver said about the song:

This is a very personal and very special song for me. It doesn’t conjure up Boeing 707s or 747s for me as much as it does the simple scenes of leaving. Bags packed and standing by the front door, taxi pulling up in the early morning hours, the sound of a door closing behind you, and the thought of leaving someone that you care for very much. I was fortunate to have Peter, Paul and Mary record it and have it become a hit, but it still strikes a lonely and anguished chord in me, because the separation still continues, although not so long and not so often nowadays.[4]

Though not written about the Vietnam War, the Peter, Paul and Mary cover of the song was interpreted by at least one writer to be a protest song about a soldier's impending deployment.[5]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[6] Silver 200,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Peter, Paul and Mary version[edit]

"Leaving on a Jet Plane"
Single by Peter, Paul and Mary
from the album Album 1700
B-side"The House Song"
ReleasedSeptember 1969
LabelWarner Bros.- Seven Arts 7340
Songwriter(s)John Denver
Producer(s)Milt Okun
Peter, Paul and Mary singles chronology
"Day Is Done"
"Leaving on a Jet Plane"
"The Marvelous Toy"
Official audio
"Leaving on a Jet Plane" (2004 Remaster) on YouTube

The most well known version was recorded by American folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, for their 1967 studio album, Album 1700, and Warner Bros.- Seven Arts released it as a single in 1969[7] after being one of four songs on a promo EP in 1967.[8] John Denver was a close friend of theirs and they shared the same producer in that time, Milt Okun.

It was Peter, Paul and Mary's biggest (and final) hit, becoming their only No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. It was the penultimate #1 single of the 1960s, and the song also spent three weeks atop the easy listening chart[9] and was used in commercials for United Airlines in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The song also topped the charts in Canada, and reached No. 2 in both the UK Singles Chart and Irish Singles Chart in February 1970. In fact, it was the only version of the song that charted.

Cash Box described this version as "stunning material" with "an especially fine arrangement".[10]


In the 1980s, the song prompted litigation involving the British group New Order. The band's single "Run 2" (1989) was the subject of a lawsuit brought by Denver, who argued that its wordless guitar break was based on his "Leaving on a Jet Plane". The case was settled out of court, and Denver subsequently received a co-writer credit for the song.[22]


  1. ^ "John Denver Dies in Plane Crash". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  2. ^ Current Events Archived December 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "John Denver – Leaving On A Jet Plane".
  4. ^ www.countrythangdaily.com
  5. ^ Breihan, Tom (December 10, 2018). "The Number Ones: Peter, Paul & Mary's "Leaving On A Jet Plane"". Stereogum. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  6. ^ "British single certifications – John Denver – Leaving on a Jet Plane". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  7. ^ Amy Willis (September 17, 2009). "Peter, Paul and Mary: Career timeline". The Daily Telegraph.
  8. ^ "discogs entry for Peter, Paul & Mary – Rolling Home". Discogs. 1967.
  9. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 192.
  10. ^ "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. October 11, 1969. p. 26. Retrieved 2021-12-08.
  11. ^ David Kent's "Australian Chart Book 1970-1992" Archived 2016-03-05 at archive.today
  12. ^ RPM Adult Contemporary, December 13, 1969
  13. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Leaving on a Jet Plane". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  14. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  15. ^ [Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-2002]
  16. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 12/20/69". Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  17. ^ "RPM Top 100 Hits of 1969 - January 10, 1970" (PDF).
  18. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.
  19. ^ Top Records on 1969 (Based on Billboard Charts)", Billboard, December 27, 1969. pp. 16-17. Accessed December 7, 2016.
  20. ^ "RPM's Top 100 of 1970". Library and Archives Canada. 17 July 2013.
  21. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  22. ^ "New Order:Singles:Run 2". Niagara.edu. Archived from the original on 2019-09-13. Retrieved 2016-10-02.

External links[edit]