Missing Dan Fogelberg
He was what the New York Times, in his 2007 obit, called a “lyrical soft rocker,” and his albums sold in the millions. He was a gentle soul from Peoria, IL who never forgot his roots, and died much too young. I loved his story-songs that formed part of the soundtrack to my early twenties. “Leader of the Band” a touching tribute to his school band director dad. “Run for the Roses,” a paean to the Kentucky Derby and the horses who race. “The Power of Gold,” a song that warns of money’s “lure on the unsuspecting.”
But my hands-down favorite was “Same Old Lang Syne.” This achingly poignant song was inspired by a random meeting he once had with an old girlfriend in a grocery store, on a snowy Christmas Eve. The ex-couple talked for hours about the ways their lives apart had turned out, and “drank a toast to innocence.” I played it constantly for a stretch in early 1981, when my happiness seemed fragile, and I was always projecting ahead to loss and regret (which would indeed soon enter my world).
What makes a song take root in your soul? To me, it’s, more than anything, where you are in life when you hear it. My prime time was the late 70s and early 80s. I can hear any number of songs from that era and be propelled right back. Pure Prairie League’s “Amie”, for instance. When I was a young hostess at an Atlanta restaurant, the singer in the lounge had a big crush on the manager, a guy named Jamie. She’d always sing the song as “Jamie.” Not sure if it ever had the desired effect, but I hear it now and remember my hostess uniform, and trying to fit in a grownup world.
I adore classical music, and a good bit of jazz as well—even some country has appeal. And I do associate certain sonatas and symphonies with life passages. But for some reason, the soft rock of Dan Fogelberg and his contemporaries has the most consistent emotional clout.
So when I mentioned Fogelberg one evening at home, and Sheridan said, “Who’s that?” I felt terrible. It was as if I had neglected to tell my child about one of the most important times of my life. As a teacher, Sheridan has immersed himself in older pop and rock music in recent years, and has in turn shared it all with his high school music students. I hastily sent him links to my favorite songs, and hope he enjoys them enough to share with a new generation.
Nowadays, popular music has exploded in quantity, with such enormous numbers of songs and artists that I have no clue how kids keep track of it all. But amid the massive output of tunes vying for attention, I am so happy there is still space for a gentle soul from Peoria, who poured out his heart about a long-ago Christmas Eve.
RIP, Dan. Your music lives on.