A month ago, John Denver's Greatest Hits was a certified gold album. Today it is nine times platinum, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
No, the country isn't Rocky Mountain high.
RCA Records, Denver's longtime label until his 1997 death, finally requested that the RIAA audit the singer/songwriter's catalog.
Michael Omansky, the senior vice president of strategic marketing for RCA and a former friend of Denver's, spearheaded the project. According to Omansky, the label had gone through so many changes during the past two decades that some artists' sales figures had gone unreported. He spent a year gathering Denver's data and recently asked the RIAA to approve it.
"It was really just about recognition," Omansky said. "I started working on a reissue program shortly before his death. When he died, it suddenly wasn't uncool to like John Denver anymore and he started selling a lot more records. John was a great artist and a great songwriter."
The RIAA found 19 million unrecognized units after researching how many Denver albums have been shipped since the prior audit of his catalog in 1973. So when certifications were announced for the month of May, Denver's albums were showered in gold and platinum.†
Denver's Greatest Hits, Volume Two jumped from platinum status to double platinum, Greatest Hits, Volume 3 went from uncertified to gold and The Rocky Mountain Collection went from uncertified to platinum.
Five Denver titles went from gold to double platinum: An Evening With John Denver, Back Home Again, Rocky Mountain Christmas, Rocky Mountain High and Windsong.
Certifying is a different process than tracking album sales for royalty purposes, Omansky said, noting that Denver's estate and his publishers have been receiving royalty payments for the sold music. In fact, he added, an artist usually has sold more copies than are certified.
"John Denver's catalog is huge. It's a beast to stay on top of," said John Henkle, director of the RIAA's gold and platinum program. "But RCA's efforts will pay off in that John will get the official recognition he earned."
Denver, who died in a plane crash on October 12, 1997, was a gentle performer whose many hits included "Sunshine on My Shoulders," "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and "Rocky Mountain High." His album sales in the United States have reached 32.5 million, Henkle said.