On March 4, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper made it official: He’s running for president. He joined an already crowded Democratic field, but as Hickenlooper’s March 7 kickoff rally at Denver’s Civic Center Park showed, he’s got a winning soundtrack for his campaign.
The rally included performances by local singers SuCh and Mary Louise Lee, and ended with a three-song set by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.
Hickenlooper was a music fan long before he became a successful brewpub owner, much less a popular politician. And as mayor of Denver and then governor of Colorado, no one did more to support this state’s music scene than John Hickenlooper.
“I have never known a politician so involved and caring of the Colorado music community as John,” said promoter Chuck Morris, who had to miss the rally because he was at a concert in Uganda with Michael Franti. “When tragedies like the Boulder floods and fires hit, John was there, helping us reach out to artists to come and perform, helping get donations from corporations and literally emceeing and partaking in the events themselves.” At the rally, the former mayor of Jamestown lauded Hickenlooper’s work dealing with the 2013 floods.
In his push to elevate Colorado’s music industry, Hickenlooper did not just respond to emergency requests, though. As mayor of Denver, he helped propel Red Rocks Amphitheatre to its top-tier status, tripling the number of shows at this legendary venue to more than 100 a year. He used property tax discounts to encourage live music downtown, and today Denver rivals Nashville and Austin for the number of spots booking music. He also worked with established organizations like the Colorado Symphony and Swallow Hill so that they landed on solid footing. And certainly, one of his lasting legacies as governor is Take Note Colorado, a statewide initiative he introduced to provide access to musical instruments and instruction to every K-12 student in Colorado.
Hickenlooper’s support of the scene has earned him many fans, including musicians themselves. “Old Crow Medicine Show, The Lumineers, One Republic, The Fray, Bonnie Raitt and Dave Matthews are only a few of the acts that he calls friends, and he is usually seen when they appear in our great city,” Morris added. “My favorite story is when the Denver Art Museum called me to get a band to surprise him when John was awarded the Man of the Year at its 2019 gala. It took five seconds of asking The Avetts to fly all the way from North Carolina and surprise John with a beautiful show to end the evening. The look on John’s face was priceless. If there is one person who personifies the greatness of Colorado music for the last 25 years, it would be hard to top John Hickenlooper.”
Hickenlooper was honored with the Barry Fey Visionary Award at the December 2018 induction ceremony for the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. How to top that? Running for president, of course, backed by a winning soundtrack.