“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is a song written by John Denver in 1966 and most famously recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. The original title of the song was “Babe, I Hate to Go” but Denver’s then producer Milt Okun convinced him to change the title.
The song was initially recorded in 1966 by John Denver with the title “Babe, I Hate to Go.” That same year, Denver chose this song along with fifteen others and, with his own money, had 250 copies pressed onto vinyl. He distributed the copies to friends and family. Peter, Paul and Mary were so impressed with the song that they chose to record it themselves and released it on their 1967 Album 1700. Notably, it didn’t become a hit for them until they released it as a single in 1969.
The song was also recorded in 1967 by the Chad Mitchell Trio and then later that same year by Spanky and Our Gang. It was performed for the very first time live at The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. in 1966 by the Chad Mitchell Trio, with John Denver substituting for Chad Mitchell.
John Denver recorded his own version of the song for his debut solo album, Rhymes & Reasons, and re-recorded it in 1973 for John Denver’s Greatest Hits. His version was featured in the end credits of The Guard.
It turned out to be Peter, Paul & Mary’s biggest (and final) hit, becoming their only #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. It was the penultimate #1 single of the 1960s. The song also spent three weeks atop the easy listening chart and was used in commercials for United Airlines in the late 1970s.