Daniel Grayling Fogelberg on August 13, 1951 in Peoria, Illinois
December 16, 2007 in Deer Isle, Maine
Dan Fogelberg - Early Years:
Fogelberg's life was intensely musical from its inception, probably resulting strongly from the influence of music-immersed parents. His father, a music teacher and bandleader, and his mother, a classically trained pianist, saw their youngest son learn guitar and piano before he was a teenager and then join his first band at age 14. Throughout his teens, Fogelberg demonstrated a precocious but determined eclecticism, bouncing from Beatles
que pop to blues to singer-songwriter folk
in his first musical ventures. By the early '70s the fledgling musician had become a local coffeehouse regular as an acoustic performer.
Go West, Young Dan:
After being discovered by burgeoning local promoter (and future music biz mogul) Irving Azoff, Fogelberg served quite prominently for a time as a session musician in Los Angeles. Still, by 1972 the songwriting bug had led to the release of Fogelberg's solo debut, Home Free
, and two years later its follow-up, Souvenirs
, brought Fogelberg to prominence within the sensitive singer-songwriter movement of the '70s. There he would stay for the remainder of the decade, making modest commercial strides and helping to popularize the newly christened but sometimes polarizing genre of soft rock
Dan Fogelberg Develops Into Full-Fledged Pop Craftsman:
Fogelberg continued to maintain a strong following among fans of thoughtful acoustic rock through the latter '70s, but he managed only two modest Top 40 hits during that decade, 1975's "Part of the Plan"
and 1978's harder-rocking "The Power of Gold."
Perhaps this could be attributed to the somewhat free-form nature of much of his '70s output, a period before Fogelberg settled on an accessible, commercial approach that could also maximize his sweeping lyrical gifts and his uncanny sense of melody. At his '80s peak, Fogelberg would score a Top 10 pop or adult contemporary hit during six consecutive years from 1980-1985.
In Spite of Changing '80s Landscape, Fogelberg Rules the Decade:
If you're wondering if "rules" is too strong a word, consider that by the time Fogelberg slowed his career in 1988, he had compiled three Top 10 pop albums and an impressive 11 Top 10 singles during the '80s on either or both Billboard's Top 10 pop and adult contemporary charts. This, of course, isn't nearly as important as the fact that Fogelberg almost single-handedly held the flag aloft for high-quality soft rock and singer-songwriter pop during a decade not terribly kind to that genre. Songs like "Hard to Say," "Leader of the Band" and "Missing You" remain deserving classics that continue to pay sonic dividends.
Latter Career & Growing Legacy:
While massive hits like "Longer"
helped make Fogelberg a household name, he actually produced a wide array of music (including the bluegrass
explorations on 1985's High Country Snows
) throughout the '80s, continuing to tour often and successfully to showcase his range and eclecticism. The studio albums certainly slowed during the '90s, but a number of retrospectives appeared that made it impossible for detractors to dismiss the singer-songwriter as a drastically unhip cog in the corporate pop machine. After all, this was a musician who made the records he wanted to make in a business that often made that difficult.
Untimely Death from Prostate Cancer:
For the last three years of his life, Fogelberg battled admirably against a cancer that was discovered while already at an advanced stage. Successful treatments kept hope alive for a couple of years, but on December 16, 2007 Fogelberg succumbed to the disease at home with his family in Maine. It's probably somewhat fitting that a talent as subtle as Fogelberg did not inspire a surplus of mournful outcries and prominent tributes upon his tragic death, but that doesn't make the oversight any less frustrating or unjust for those who fully appreciated the talent and influence of this true American original.