Dan Fogelberg is by far my favorite songwriter. His songs have touched me deeply and have been there in some trying times in my life. His writing has greatly influenced my own writing, in terms of finding just the right lines to say. He doesn’t get much radio airplay these days, but has forged for himself a career dedicated to making his statement his way. His songs aren’t like anyone else’s, and he’s often flown directly in the face of trends by putting out music that is uniquely his own. Here are my favorite Dan Fogelberg tunes.
1. Leader of the Band
2. Same Old Lang Syne
4. Bones In The Sky
5. Believe In Me
6. Old Tennessee
8. To The Morning
9. Beggar’s Game
10. Along the Road
“Leader of the Band” (Innocent Age, 1981). This song is the first thing I ever heard from DF. I remember hearing it, I think, in the car many years ago for the first time. I remember making a note in my mind “that’s a GREAT song”. Later on when I got my first CD player for my birthday years ago, Dan’s Greatest Hits was one of the first albums I got. “Leader” is a simple song about his dad. The song is just vocal and guitar with a touch of organ. This was a huge hit, and Dan’s most famous song, which is surprising since it came out during the age of Disco and New Wave.
“Same Old Lang Syne” (Innocent Age, 1981). This tune I think objectively, might be right up there as one of the greatest pop songs of all time. It closes disc 1 of The Innocent Age album. The song starts inconsequentially as a Dan encounters an old flame in the grocery store over Christmas Eve (this is true story as I understand it). The two former lovers decide to go have drink and catch up. The song evolves into a very poignant tale of love lost and found, and ends with a jazzy quotation of “Auld Lang Syne” by saxophonist Michael Brecker. As an aside, the main melody is from 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky that Dan lifted as a musical joke.
“Netherlands” (Netherlands, 1977). This is the title track of Dan’s eponymous 1977 album, released at the height of 1970s “California rock” Dan has said that this album marked a turning point into more mature writing for him, and it shows. He had said in interview that he had bought Chris Hillman’s (Byrds) old house in the mountains of Colorado. He said that Netherlands was written during a winter there. The finished track features orchestration by Dominic Frontiere who also led the Hollywood Bowl orchestra for the track.
“Bones In The Sky” (The Wild Places, 1990). This song was written in memory of artist Georgia O’Keefe, whose work Dan and his wife greatly admired. (Dan is an amateur painter; some of his work can be found on his albums) O’Keefe is known for her spiritual overtones in her paintings as well as the use of animal bones and elements of Native American culture.
“Believe In Me” (Windows and Walls, 1984). This song is one of Dan’s treasured love songs, of which there are many. This song was written during a time where his marriage was going through difficulty. One can feel the pain and heartache in the lyrics. As usually, Dan is brilliantly summative at the end of the bridge: “but trust isn’t something that’s spoken, and love’s never wrong when it’s real”. The song is still a crowd favorite.
“Old Tennesee” (Captured Angel, 1975). This tune was conceived by Dan as a sendup of the East Coast folk style ala James Taylor. A simple song, it has also long been one of Dan’s live favorite.
“Souvenirs” (Souvenir, 1974). This is the title track from Dan’s breakthrough second album. This tune gets forgotten among some of Dan’s more famous work which would come a few years after this album. This song is a poignant story of a man trying to reconcile past longings and loves. When faced with the past, t”he strongest man cries…cries”. A rare, forgotten gem.
“To The Morning” (Home Free, 1972). This song opens Dan’s debut album. Many have commented that there has never been a more purely beautiful opening song to an album. Dan’s voice is higher here; his voice had not yet mellowed to what it would become later. His wordplay is so beautifully framed by the piano melody that one can vividly imagine the sun coming through the windows on a warm summer morning.
“Beggar’s Game” (Phoenix, 1980). By the end of the 70’s, Fogelberg was a huge star, selling millions of albums and touring with the likes of the Eagles. The Phoenix album was one of his biggest ones spurred on by the success of the wedding standard “Longer”. This particular tune “Beggar’s Game”, was not released as a single, but is one of the greatest in Dan’s output IMO. The song talks about meeting a woman unexpectedly and falling in love. The piece is epic in scope, and Dan shows his musicality with the chord changes in the verse (Bb – Am – E – Am). Very unique, masterpiece of a song.
“Along The Road” (Phoenix, 1980). Dan Fogelberg is probably above all, a storyteller. His songs read like travelogues, both as physical and emotional or spiritual journeys. How fitting then, that he end this album in this way. As he talks about this concept of “the road”, he shares his own insights as only he can. He speaks of the journey as one of peaks and valleys, where joy and pain coexist. “Joy at the start, Fear in the journey, Joy in the coming home, A part of the heart, Gets lost in the learning, Somewhere along the road.”