Dan Fogelberg, 1951-2007

photo by Henry Diltz

Dan Fogelberg was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois. His chief musical inspiration was his father, the band director at the local high school. Like many teenagers in the sixties, he was inspired to join a rock band after hearing The Beatles, but eventually Fogelberg found his calling in folk music. His first album came out in 1972. Like James Taylor, Fogelberg embraced a style of laid-back, introspective songs with simple arrangements based around his acoustic guitar. But while Taylor's voice was (and is) a somewhat limited baritone, Fogelberg had a distinctively silky tenor.

His commercial peak came with the ballad "Longer" in 1979 and the story songs "Leader of the Band" and "Same Old Lang Syne" in 1981. "Leader of the Band" paid tribute to his father, and "Same Old Lang Syne" recounted an actual incident where he bumped into an ex-girlfriend at the store one Christmas Eve. His recorded output remained steady until the early nineties, although years of wear coarsened his voice considerably. A 1999 Christmas album was Fogelberg's only album of new recordings between 1993 and 2003.

In 2003, Fogelberg returned with a new album called Full Circle. Despite making little chart impact, the album was of comparable quality to his best work. Plans for a tour were derailed in the spring of 2004, when he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. His three-year battle with the disease came to a losing end this past Sunday. Dan Fogelberg was 56.

Fogelberg's best-known material epitomized the sub-genre of soft rock; his songs were far more likely to appeal to parents than to teenagers, but there are worse things you can call a song than "pleasant" or "melodic." And at any rate, his music holds up quite a bit better than most of the songs he shared the pop charts with.

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