Songwriting with Dan Fogelberg
Many years ago in the early 90's I had the chance to interview one of my all time favorite singer songwriters Dan Fogelberg. I first met him back stage after one of his shows in the SF Bay Area. I was super excited about meeting him after so many years of being a fan and listening to his music and trying to understand the meaning behind each song. He put on a great show and was in good spirits as he sang his songs from different albums. His bass player that evening was Timothy B. Schmit from the Eagles and Timothy sang his hit song "I Can't Tell You Why" and Dan played a really nice guitar solo which mimicked the Eagles version but had Dan's own style and interpretation.
When the concert was over my friend Fred Augusto and I headed toward the stage and found the road manager whom had arranged for us to go back stage and meet Dan. We went back and saw Dan talking to a few folks and then he disappeared into his bus. His wife came over and said if we didn't mind waiting around he would come out and chat later. So Fred and I chatted with his wife for a while and then spotted Timothy and went over and chatted with him. Being a big Eagles Fan I definitely wanted to find out if they would ever get back together again. This was before their reunion "Hell Freezes Over" tour. Plus Timothy had just released his own solo album which I really liked so we talked about his new album for a while. He was really cool and friendly and took some pictures with us. Finally I asked him if he thought the Eagles would ever get back together and he said "Awe man. Don hates Glenn and Glenn hates Don. I don't think it's ever going to happen. But I would love it if it did." So that was the end of that conversation as he didn't seem to keen on talking about it any further.
About two hours later Dan came back out and his wife introduced him to me. I told him I had been a big fan of his songwriting and showed him my songbook for "The Innocent Age" a milestone album, which my very first love had given to me as a Christmas present back when I was 18 years old. He graciously signed it and we chatted a little about his tour and new CD "River of Souls". In my excitement I forgot to ask him of the significance of the cover photo for "The Innocent Age" which depicted a creepy looking rag doll leaning against a headstone in a grave yard. It wasn't until years later I finally figured it out on my own. That entire double CD was a song cycle of life. From the Nexus to Ghosts. I finally recalled a line from one of the songs. "In the passage from the cradle to the grave we are born madly dancing." That was it. From the cradle to the grave. Represented by the rag doll and the headstone. At least that's what my interpretation is and many great works of art are left open to interpretation.
What struck me the most meeting Dan was that in my mind I thought of him as a very serious, even morose tortured artist because of the types of songs he wrote but turned out he was happy, friendly and just a cool guy. I told him what I was thinking and he had a good laugh about it and said I wasn't the first person to think that.
Around this time his road manager was pestering him about getting back on the bus but he was really cool and focused on us and even agreed to take some photos. Then finally he said he had to go but that he would call me from the road so that we could do the songwriting interview. Sure enough about two weeks later I received a phone call at home from Dan Fogelberg. He said he was sitting in a hotel somewhere and had time to chat about songwriting. It was a great interview and he gave me stories on many of his songs and how they came to be. "Longer" he was sitting in a hammock in Hawaii and it floated down to him and wrote itself in about 20 minutes.
He said "Same Old Lang Syne" was a true story although I had heard many years before that it was a song exercise that took him a year to write and when he told people the story didn't really happen, there was a lot of disappointment. So he had adopted a slightly altered version of the truth so as to not crush people's perception of that song. I'll admit I didn't have the guts to challenge him on that and in the end it doesn't really matter. It's a classic song that has brought joy to many and will always be with us.
That was the last time I saw him in concert but I continued to buy all his albums that he produced up until his untimely passing in 2007. That was a hard day for Dan Fans. I still think he was one of the most brilliant singer songwriters of our generation and his legacy will live on forever.