Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dan Fogelberg - RIP

Music appeals to different people in different ways. I personally value music on three different levels. First, musicianship. Second, poetic value. Third, clarity of voice. The vast majority of music I listen to focuses heavily on musicianship, although lately I've been keenly interested in poetic writing. But every once in a while I hear an artist that touches my soul with nothing more than a beautiful voice.

When I was 13 years old I was at a "party" at a girl's house. I didn't really fit in well at that particular party. Everyone was swimming in the back and I didn't have the body that some of the other guys there had. It's amazing now to think that a 13 year old would be concerned about MUSCLES, but nevertheless I found myself in the kitchen with a few other self-conscious kids talking to Sara's mom. The radio was playing in the background and Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band" came on the radio. "Ooooh, I love this song" I said. Sara's mom looked at me with a cocked head and a sly smirk and said "you don't have a clue who this even is." "Of course I know who this is....doesn't everybody?" She laughed. "I'll give you 5 bucks if you can tell me who sings this song." Still bewildered, "Leader of the band. Dan Fogelberg. The Innocent Age, 1981." Her jaw hit the floor as she started to laugh, and laughed until she cried. She went to her purse, got my 5 bucks, and we talked Dan Fogelberg and classic music for the rest of the party. Just Debbie and me. I ended up liking Debbie more than Sara.

Fogelberg is one of the few musicians I've loved based entirely on vocal ability. His tone was so pure, especially in his upper register. He was also an extremely gifted writer. Leader of the Band is a story of the love between a father and a son and the common bond between them was music. The song touches on regret, hope, admiration, and ultimately gratitude. Same Old Lang Syne tells the tale of two past lovers that have a chance encounter in the frozen foods section of a grocery store after many years of not seeing each other. This story paints a vivid picture of emptiness AND fulfillment. Contentment in the life chosen, but a hint of regret for the life unpursued.

I know it has been almost two months since Dan Fogelberg died of prostate cancer, but his music has been on my mind the entire time. His greatest hits haven't left the Stratus' CD player in a month and my kids are now asking to listen to him. Talmage's favorites are Longer and Heart Hotels. I get a little choked up when I watch my son's reaction to Fogelberg as childhood memories wash over me. He listens intently and feels the music. He asks questions like, "Dad, what's a 'thundering velvet hand?'" Sometimes I look at him and see myself. Maybe one day he'll also have a chance to relieve some girl's mother of $5 and will have Dan Fogelberg to thank for it.

Thanks Dan.

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