Daniel Grayling “Dan” Fogelberg (August 13, 1951 – December 16, 2007) was an American musician, songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist whose music was inspired by sources as diverse as folk, pop, rock, classical, jazz, and bluegrass. He is best known for his early 1980s hits, including “Longer” (1980), “Leader of the Band” (1981), and “Same Old Lang Syne” (1981).
In May 2004, Fogelberg was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. After undergoing therapy, he achieved a partial remission. On August 13, 2005, his 54th birthday, he announced the success of his cancer treatments. He said that he had no immediate plans to return to making music but was keeping his options open. However, his cancer returned, and on December 16, 2007, Fogelberg died at the age of 56 at his home in Deer Isle, Maine. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
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I chose Dan Fogelberg for this week’s Saturday Sing-a-long not just because he was a great musician, but also because of one particular song he did, The Leader of the Band. This was one of my sister’s favorite songs of that era, and when our dad passed away in February of 1997, she wanted very much to have it played at his funeral since he was ALWAYS first and foremost a band leader. He picked up a second-hand guitar when he was 13 and taught himself to play. Shortly thereafter he started his own band. He had a band all his life except when he did his stint in WWII. And even then he didn’t stop playing. He was a member of the Artillary Jive Bombers. He ended his time on this earth as the leader of the Desert Varnish in Quartzsite, Arizona.
The only problem was some of the words of the song were obviously about someone else. So I changed the first and last verse to reflect dad’s life, left the third verse out, and our son Brandon sang it at his funeral. These are the two verses I rewrote:
The oldest child of five,
he had to grow up way too fast.
An absent father’s role to fill,
and his boyhood wouldn’t last.
His heart was meant for different work,
guitar he learned to play.
And he gave to me a gift I know
I never can repay.
I thank you for the music
and your stories of the road.
I thank you for the many songs
you used to fill my soul.
I thank you for the kindness
and the times when you got tough.
And pa-pa I don’t think I said
“I love you” near enough.
So this song, written by a very special and talented artist, will always have a sacred place in our family’s life.
(A really bad pix of Brandon and dad “jammin'” at my folks’ house. Brandon played the trumpet and French horn as well as having an amazing voice. He was the cantor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Ogden for six years. He got all dad’s musical genes and then some. Brandon can read through a piece of music once and have it down pat; dad couldn’t read a lick of music, played it all by ear.)