The Passing of Dan FogelbergDan Fogelberg

 

On Sunday night, December 16, I received a call from my good friend John DeMarco. He told me the news that Dan Fogelberg had died.

I was well aware that Dan Fogelberg had been diagnosed with cancer back in 2004 and nothing had been heard from him since. I took this as a bad sign. So the call from John did not necessarily come as a surprise. But I spent the remaining hours that night continuing to roll the words over in my mind, “Dan Fogelberg died?”

Following my first impulse, I got on the internet to see what I could find out. The report was already on a number of sites. However, it was all from the same Associated Press story - "He was from Peoria, he had a string of hits in the 70s and 80s, he’d sold lots of albums and that he had died from a battle with prostate cancer."

This news just absolutely bummed me out. You see, Dan Fogelberg was a major musical influence of mine. I became aware of his music sometime in the late 70s – and have been a fan ever since.

What I find interesting is the description of his music in the various obits in the media. The two or three songs they listed were indeed huge hits – but his best material existed under the radar of radio airplay. I suppose the general public will merely recall him as the author of some mellow pop hits.  But to the people that really knew his material, he was so much more than that guy who sang "Leader of the Band."

Dan Fogelberg certainly wasn’t an edgy artist - I’ll give you that. He wasn’t so much a star of the music industry, but rather a poet who had a gift for music. In his songs, he told stories about the human condition – things we all experience and observe.  But he did so with an eloquence that few can convey.

 

He was also one hell of an excellent guitar player.

Many among his fans have said that he was extremely underrated as a musician and songwriter. That’s really not a surprise to me. I don’t ever really recall hearing much hype about him in the media. In fact, it’s actually a bit tough to find much at all about him as a person. He just produced albums, made concert appearances from time to time – and then pretty much retreated to the seclusion of his private life. But despite this apparent "formula for failure" in the meat grinder of the record industry, thousands of loyal fans continued to buy his music and show up to see him perform over a period of 30 years. I think this alone speaks volumes about the quality of his music.

My sister sent me a link on YouTube to one of his live performances of Leader of the Band. It was interesting to see the large number of people that left comments to express their sadness - as well as their gratitude. No, he certainly wasn’t a star of the music industry – but his material was deeply loved by many. And as a songwriter – that’s just about as good as it gets.

Dan Fogelberg’s last album was Full Circle – released in 2003, just a year before his cancer diagnosis. An ironic title to be sure. But even more ironic was the last original song on the album – a track entitled Icarus Ascending. This song deals with the issue of believing in yourself and pursuing your visions and dreams despite the barriers of fear and uncertainty. Talk about a completely positive message for a final statement.

On the way to work this morning, I listened to the Full Circle CD again. I hadn’t listened to it in quite some time. And hearing that last song in the wake of Dan Fogelberg’s death was very moving.

So, at risk of incurring the wrath of the copyright police, I thought I’d post an mp3 of that song – as well as the lyrics.

 

Icarus Ascending Song File - MP3 Format - 4.6MB Icarus Ascending Lyrics

 

Some years ago, upon hearing of the news of my father’s death, my longtime friend, Steve Wellman put it best. “Doesn’t that death shit suck?” Yes, it certainly does!  But if life has shown me one thing very clearly – it’s that everything is going to change and nothing lasts forever.  I am once again reminded.

With the passing of Dan Fogelberg, a great musical talent has left the stage, and those of us that loved what he created, will always feel regret for that one last song we'll never get to hear.

So Dan Fogelberg – thanks for touching so many lives with all the great music! Rest Easy Brother!

S.N.