Feb/15/2006 07:47 AM Filed in: Balcony People
(Note: I’ve done a little reorganization of the blog today, and created a new category called “Balcony People.” Joyce Landgraff created the term some years back, to describe folks living, dead, fictional, and non, who were her support system….her cheerleaders….her inspiration. It seems to me that part of this blog should be to recognize those kinds of folks, and thus the new category. So, I’ve moved some old entries into this category, and will try to write new ones as life allows…EF)
When I was in college, I used to sit up late nights in Moore-Hill dorm playing Dan Fogelberg songs. It’s been said that every guy starts out playing music because he imagines it will “attract the chicks.” I certainly would have never admitted as much at the time, but I definitely had a fantasy back then.
My fantasy was that I’d be sitting in my room, playing a Dan Fogelberg song –perhaps something like “These Days“– and some really gorgeous young coed would walk by, hear the music, come it to listen for a while, fall madly in love with me, and we’d live happily….well, you know…
Never happened. Not even once.
All those nights, playing the guitar by myself never once attracted one female into my dorm room, despite the fact that perhaps hundreds passed by the door during those years. As an unintended consequence, however, I did manage to learn a fair number of Dan Fogelberg songs along the way. In fact, I had “The Complete Dan Fogelberg Songbook” and at one time I could probably play about half the tunes in the book.
Of course, by the time I was in college, folk rock was waaay “out.” Nobody listened to Dan Fogelberg. Everybody was in to Howard Jones, and Haircuts 100. It was the early days of MTV, with Michael Jackson and Dire Straights. Nobody, but nobody, was interested in the sensitive singer-songwriter.
But songwriters like Fogelberg are deep in my own musical DNA. Long before I knew of the great singer-songwriters of the 90s, I was listening to the great singer-songwriters of the 70s. And Dan Fogelberg is among the best. A part of the whole Southern California movement that also birthed Jackson Browne, the Eagles, and hosts of other artists, Fogelberg really charted his own path. Determined to be a solo artist, his ethic in that regard is a real model for all us who can’t ever seen playing permanently with a band.
I won’t write a biography of Fogelberg here, because its’ really been done already. If you click here you’ll read one of the best I’ve read.
I can’t even remember now how I first started listening to Fogelberg music…or what album I got first. He goes THAT far back in my memory. I CAN tell you that my two favorites when I was in high school were “Home Free” (his first) and “Souvenirs.” To this day, “There’s a Place in the World for a Gambler” is a desert isle song for me.
It was one of the songs I used to play in my church high school youth group. Something about that third verse really speaks to me:
“There a light in the depth of your darkness,
There’s a calm at the eye of every storm.
There’s a light in the depth of your darkness,
Let it shine.”
If that’s not deeply theological, I don’t know what is.
When my grandmother died, my sophomore year at college, we drove that long drive back to Kentucky one last time. Somehow, I knew it would be the last time we’d visit there. And that made it a doubly-sad trip. We were not just saying goodbye to her, we were saying goodbye to a home, a part of my father’s life, and a part of our family’s collective history. I could sense all this at the time…while it was happening.
I probably listened to “Home Free” a hundred times on that long interstate ride up there. And then, as we pulled away from the old deep, red brick house one last time, I had “To the Morning” on…and the lyrics spoke to the deep sadness I felt:
“And it’s going to be a day,
There is really no way to say no to the morning.
Yes it’s going to be a day, there is really nothing left to say,
but come on morning….
And maybe there are seasons
And maybe they change
And maybe true love is not so strange.”
You have to really hear the song to get the full affect. But it’s another desert isle song. And it was one of the times in life when the actual music and lyrics of a song genuinely captured my own personal mood, the way that only the most special of songs can.
I love to play “The Last Nail,” and it’s been one of my favorite DF songs forever. It was never a hit. The lyrics are, truthfully, a little corny and perhaps discomforting. They feel a little too personal…a little too voyeuristic. I truly have no idea how autobiographical it is to DF’s life. But I always liked the guitar riff, and for years, it was probably the most difficult riff I could play. So I played it a lot.
Somehow, in that fantasy of mine I mentioned at the start, I always imagined that the “chicks” would dig this voyeuristic song about a woman who goes off and leaves the lonely guitar player. (What was I THINKING?!)
But several years down the road, when my college girlfriend actually did break up with me, it did feel as if I was, pretty literally, living out the song itself. And I found myself going back to it again.
A year later –my first year in grad school at SMU– she and I bumped into each other at a UT Football game, and we spent an hour or so catching up late that night. It was –sans the Christmas Eve part– the story line of “Same Old Lang Syne.” It was even raining when I got out of her car, and walked back to my friend’s dorm room…no kidding.
Life sometimes does imitate art.
What’s always impressed me is what an incredible musician Fogelberg is. On several of his albums, he plays virtually EVERY instrument. On a couple of them, he also painted the paintings that grace the cover or inside jacket. I like that. He really makes the artistic expression a part who he is. He has something to say about all aspects of this music production…he’s not just stepping into someone else’s artist vision (record company, manager, etc…).
I’ve probably seen DF seven or eight times live. Like Chicago, you kind of loose track after a while. I’ve seen him with the “band,” and I’ve seen him “solo,” and it’s been a treat every time. He always manages to pull out some old songs that are surprises, and he’s enough of a pro to also play the “hits” because he has to. (But without malice or disdain for them either…)
I’ve never actually met Dan Fogelberg. But I had a golden opportunity to once. It was after one of his solo acoustic shows at what was then called “Starplex” in Dallas. I had hung around backstage, waiting to see if he’d come out. He never did. The crowd must have waited for several hours for him to come and meet and greet, and gradually most of the folks just left. But he still stayed sequestered in his room. I had heard it said that he can be a pretty temperamental guy who doesn’t like the “meet and greet.”
Finally, almost everyone disbursed…even the security guards! So, I just strode right in. There were probably ten or twenty folks standing around. And then, without warning, Dan Fogelberg and his girlfriend emerged from the dressing room, and headed for their limo. They stopped to shake hands with just about everyone standing there, and even talk with folks for a while.
At one point, I am probably ten or fifteen feet from the guy, and he actually turns and looks at me. I would imagine I must have had some kind of stunned-frozen expression on my face, because after a second or two, he turned his gaze elsewhere, and within a minute more he was in the limo driving away.
I was simply totally frozen. What would I have said to him?
Dan, I’m such a big fan?
Mr. Fogelberg, I feel I could be reincarnated as you because I already know most of you songs?
(sounds a little stalker-ish…)
So, I didn’t say anything. Just stood there like a frozen deer, as he got in the limo, and the headlights drove away…..
Over the past decade, we’ve heard less and less from Fogelberg. Part of that is that he’s been in the midst of a very serious personal battle with cancer the past two years, and I certainly hope and pray he’s come out of it well and whole again. I also have heard a rumor that his Colorado Ranch, his home of almost twenty-five years, is up for sale. Have no idea what that means.
I’ve wanted to write about Fogelberg and his influence in my life and music for some time. But the reason I am writing about him now is that, a couple of years ago, I met a guy named Rusty King at an annual retreat we both are invited to each year. Rusty, myself, and a couple of other friends named Jon and Paul, stayed up late into the night playing old Dan Fogelberg songs.
Most folks know the hits we played:
Run for the Roses
Leader of the Band
Believe in Me
Make Love Stay
And many others.
You probably know all the above songs. And unless you’re a big music fan, you might not have realized they were all Dan Fogelberg songs. (That happens a lot…) And there are probably five or ten other DF songs you know, but you just have no idea that they’re his.
Anyway, what happened that night is that I found someone (Rusty) who knows more Dan Fogelberg songs than I do. If I know half of the Dan Fogelberg songbook, this guy knowsninety percent of it. I kid you not.
We weren’t just trading back and forth on songs like “Leader of the Band” that night. We were singing perfect harmonies on “Stars” and “Wysteria.” It was uncanny. In all my years, I never thought I’d meet someone who was a bigger fan that I. But I have.
Rusty is such a big fan that several years back he put on a Dan Fogelberg Tribute Show. No kidding. He rounded up string players, guitar players, bass, percussion…the works…and they put on a several hour tribute show.
Now, Rusty has convinced us all to do it again. So, we are.
Here’s the scoop:
Living Legacy: A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg
March 31st, 7 pm
Wesley Hall of Spring Valley UMC, Dallas
Best I can tell, there will be fifteen or more musicians –guitars, keyboards, percussion, flutes, strings, brass, sax, bass— all playing several hours with of Dan Fogelberg material. We’re doing the hits, yes. But we’re also doing more obscure songs that really deserve to be played and heard…even some of the jazzy instrumental stuff from “Twin Sons.” (there’s a flute player playing with us named Cornell Kinderknecht who is truly amazing…) We’re even doing “Netherlands.”
We had rehearsal on Monday night, and I have to tell you, these musicians are good. Here’s Rusty, and my old friend Frank playing the keyboards (you can see the strings, flutes, and some of the horns behind them…the other guitars, bass and me are out of the picture…):
This show has the potential for being really quite good. I’m going to get the chance to play lead and sing on several songs. I’ll also sing background on almost every song too. The show will be a benefit for UMCOR. And so, I hope you will plan to attend if you can. It should be a great night of music.
I’ll keep you posted how the show is progressing as it gets closer to the date…
Obviously, much has happened since I originally wrote this blog some year’s back. Dan has died, and I have done more blogging about him that you might find interesting.
I blog on the news of his death here.
I do a second blog about his meaning for me as a songwriter here.
Finally, an incredible tribute that comes from his wife, Jean Fogelberg. The story of what happened on the first birthday after his death. You won’t want to miss this one. Find it here.
It’s been a high honor and blessing in my life to be in Connections Band these past few years, and to have now performed our Fogelberg Tribute Show four times. Of all the shows we do, it’s the only one dedicated to just one artist, it’s the first we ever did, and it still holds a special place in our hearts. It continues to be a great honor to all of us to keep Dan’s music alive in our own way.