Dan Fogelberg

Leader of the band

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By Bill DeMain  

Whether he was writing songs about a bittersweet reunion with an ex-lover, or the breathtaking beauty of a mountain vista, Dan Fogelberg always put his listeners right there in the middle of the scene. With the keen eye of a novelist and the empathetic heart of a poet, he wrote such deeply affecting and memorable hits as "Longer," "The Power of Gold," "Same Old Lang Syne," "Hard To Say," and "The Language of Love."

Dan Fogelberg was born August 13, 1951 in Peoria, Illinois. His father, as detailed in one of Dan's biggest hits, was the leader of a swing band, and his mother was a singer. Dan was a creative child, channeling his energy into drawing and painting at a young age. When he turned twelve, he got his first guitar and, shortly thereafter, experienced the universal epiphany of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. There was no turning back.

During his college years, he was discovered at a gig in a noisy bar by future music biz magnate Irving Azoff. Fogelberg moved to LA, where, along with Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and The Eagles, he became a leading player in the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s. A quartet of classic albums - Home Free, Souvenirs, Captured Angel and Netherlands - showed off his angelic, soulful voice and songwriting prowess, establishing him as the poster child for sensitive singer-songwriters everywhere.

A restless musical spirit led Fogelberg to experiment with the nearly all-instrumental Twin Sons of Different Mothers, a collaboration with flautist Tim Weisberg (1978) and The Innocent Age (1981), a sprawling double album that explored styles from rock to country to orchestral pop. In 1985, he indulged his formidable guitar chops (he'd worked as a session player in Nashville before his debut album) with High Country Snows, a studio rave-up with bluegrass stars Doc Watson, David Grisman and Ricky Scaggs.

The Wild Places (1990) and River of Souls (1993) saw Fogelberg embracing his passion for nature and taking on environmental issues. While it may have cost Fogelberg commercial momentum, he said at the time, "I know metaphysical songs aren't going to sell on the radio. You've got to just follow your heart and do your best work. For better or worse, I have followed my heart. There is no doubt in my mind or heart that everything I've done is exactly what I intended to do."

By the time of 2003's Full Circle, a welcome return to his folkier sound of the late '70s, you could hear Fogelberg's influence in many contemporary artists, from John Mayer to Five For Fighting.

Musician and journalist Bill DeMain writes frequently about music. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Entertainment Weekly, MOJO, and Musician.