I couldn’t write about his death the day it happened (Sunday, Dec. 16) because when he died it was like losing a member of my extended family, and writing about him at that moment would have felt awkward and disrespectful.
Now I’m missing him, or at least the thought of him because I never met him and only saw him once in concert. But Dan Fogelberg’s music has been a part of me since I was 14 years old. He wrote the kind of lyrics that are only found deep inside a questioning, searching individual, and his sound is so unique that you can pick out his music in just a few notes.
Dan Fogelberg’s were second only to Elton John’s in the number of albums I owned from one artist. My brother-in-law gave me the vinyls “Home Free,” “Netherlands,” and “Captured Angel” back in 1977 and I added “Twin Sons of Different Mothers” and “Phoenix” to my collection as soon as they came out. My first husband, Bruce, gave me “The Innocent Age” our first Christmas in 1981. “Only the Heart May Know” became our anthem, made even more poignant after Bruce died. I still don’t own all of Fogelberg’s music, but some day I will.
I’m sure many of you have been to a wedding where the vocalist sang Fogelberg’s “Longer.” Bruce, with his lovely tenor voice, sang that song at the first wedding we went to together. He looked at me while he sang it and I can still feel the look in his eyes in my heart.
Fogelberg taught me about the dangers of nuclear power in his song “Face the Fire” and I often think of the song “Power of Gold” when I read of the maladies of the rich and famous and politically corrupt.
When a friend of mine was murdered in 1986, the lyrics of Fogelberg’s 1984 song “Tucson Arizona (Gazette)” were hauntingly close to reality. And the song “Windows and Walls” achingly reminds me of my grandmother who lost her sight and her hearing in advanced age and sat for hours staring at the walls of her nursing home, her mind still alive and active.
“Seeing You Again,” “Since You’ve Asked,” “Tell Me To My Face,” “Paris Nocturne,” “Next Time,” “Run for the Roses,” “Leader of the Band,” “Same Old Lang Syne”…the list of songs goes on and on, as do the memories they invoke – some take my breath away, some make me cry, some make me smile and others make me think.
Fogelberg was a prolific songwriter and from what I’ve read (much of which in his own words) a complicated person. I think that’s why I’m drawn to his music. Not that I’m so complicated, but his music has followed me throughout my life and shaped and molded my memories and even a few of my beliefs and passions. How many people you’ve never met have done that for you?
Dan Fogelberg died from advanced prostate cancer. He was only 56 years old. His voice will live on in his music, but his future music is silenced. Please educate yourself about this disease. Click here for the link to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
I don’t have one favorite song by Dan Fogelberg, but I will leave you with the lyrics to one that is particularly real for me. Those of you who know me best will know why:
Go Down Easy
Linda lost her lover in the early part of autumn
And she moved out to the country hoping all would be forgotten
The last time that I saw her she was makin’ sure the winter
Wouldn’t come through that old door frame
Where the door is several inches from the ground, the cold hard ground
And it’s hard to go down easy
And it’s hard to keep from cryin’
And it’s hard to lose a lover in the early part of autumn
Well, she learned to cook the meals and she learned to start the fire
And she learned to make jewelry out of stones and precious metals
She sits down to the table with her friends and several others
And she tries real hard to never be alone
Now the winter wind blows cold upon a fair and gentle soul
And she feels as if her time is a-passin’ easy
Her friends are sometimes lovers, though they’ll always be another
She thinks about when the night time lays on down