Song: “Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary
Reached #1: December 20, 1969 (their first, 1 week)
“Leaving On A Jet Plane” started as a Christmas gift… so the fact that it was the 1969 Christmas #1 is kind of fitting.
John Denver… yes, that John Denver… was trying to break into the music business as a writer and singer in 1967… one of the angles he tried was to give out a demo album as a Christmas gift to music industry insiders and friends who’d tried to help.
One of those friends was his producer, Milt Okun. Okun also produced Peter, Paul and Mary and unsurprisingly felt this would be a perfect song for them. The American public agreed.
Of course, shortly after the song hit #1, the trio broke up for over a decade, pursuing solo careers that never really matched their trio success. They reunited in 1981, and pretty much stayed together until Mary Travers’ leukemia diagnosis in 2004. Travers tried to keep doing shows, but treatment and the disease itself left Peter Yarrow and Paul Stuckey as a duo before and after Travers’ death in 2009.
Because of the breakup, and the changes in pop music in the ‘70s, “Leaving On A Jet Plane” would be not only the last #1, but the last chart single, for Peter, Paul, and Mary. Not a bad way to leave the pop wars, eh?
Tomorrow, a fellow Long Islander who should’ve had a much bigger career than fate gave him…
Other songs that reached #1 on December 20:
1986 – “Walk Like An Egyptian” by the Bangles (their first, 4 weeks)