About the song

John Denver’s “What One Man Can Do”. A song that resonates deeply, not just for its folksy charm and Denver’s signature warm vocals, but for the powerful message it conveys.

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Here in the early years of the 21st century, we perhaps take for granted the idealism that permeated much of the 20th century, particularly the latter half. “What One Man Can Do” is a prime example of that hopeful spirit, a belief in the power of the individual to make a positive impact on the world.

Written in 1980, the song arrived at a time of significant social and political upheaval. The Cold War was still very much a reality, the environmental movement was gaining traction, and social justice issues were at the forefront of many conversations. It’s against this backdrop that Denver, a renowned environmentalist and advocate for peace, crafted this anthem of optimism.

The opening lines immediately set the stage. Denver acknowledges the potential for cynicism, those who might dismiss the protagonist’s journey as one of ease or privilege. But he assures the listener, with a touch of folksy wisdom, that there’s more to the story. He speaks of a close bond, a connection that transcends friendship, hinting at the profound influence this unnamed “one man” has had.

The verses delve deeper, painting a picture of someone who has faced adversity. There’s a sense of isolation, a struggle to be heard in a world that seems indifferent. Yet, Denver underscores the importance of resilience, of holding onto one’s spirit and faith even in the face of doubt. It’s a message that resonates with anyone who has ever felt like their voice doesn’t matter.

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But then comes the chorus, the heart and soul of the song. Here, Denver lays out the core message in a series of powerful statements: “What one man can do is dream,” “What one man can do is love,” “What one man can do is change the world.”

Each line builds upon the other, culminating in the transformative power of action. The world, Denver suggests, can be not just “young again,” but even “made new” through the efforts of a single individual.

“What One Man Can Do” is more than just a feel-good song. It’s a call to action, an encouragement to believe in the power we all possess to make a difference. It’s a reminder that change, however seemingly insurmountable, can begin with a single dream, a single act of love, a single step towards a better future.

As we listen to Denver’s hopeful melody, we can’t help but feel a flicker of inspiration, a renewed sense of possibility for what one person, one voice, can truly achieve.

Video

Lyrics

I suppose that there are those who’ll say he had it easy,
had it made in fact, before he’d ever begun.
But they don’t know the things I know, I was always with him.
It may sound strange, but we were more than friends.
It’s hard to tell the truth when no one wants to listen, when no one really cares what’s going on.
And it’s hard to stand alone when you need someone beside you,
your spirit and your faith must be strong.

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What one man can do is dream, what one man can do is love.
What one man can do is change the world and make it young again,
here you see what one man can do.

As shaded as his eyes might be, that’s how bright his mind is,
that’s how strong his love for you and me.
A friend to all the universe, Grandfather of the future, and everything that I would like to be.

What one man can do is dream, what one man can do is love.
What one man can do is change the world and make it young again,
here you see what one man can do.
What one man can do is dream, what one man can do is love.
What one man can do is change the world and make it work again,
here you see what one man can do.