Lucid Culture


In Memoriam – Dan Fogelberg

The king of mid-80s sentimental Lite FM folkie ballads died this week from prostate cancer at age 56, ostensibly. That would have made him 26 in 1977, which is pretty dubious. Before his heyday – or at least his commercial heyday – he did a couple of albums with Tim Weissberg, a flautist (ordinarily he’d be called a flute player, but “flautist” has just the perfectly arch, pretentious connotation) who played with Bob Dylan at one time. One of those albums was called Twin Sons of Different Mothers, a Mighty Wind moment if there ever was one.

Like everyone else alive in the 80s, I too was tortured by Fogelberg’s radio hits in supermarkets and 7-11s. But I’ll always have bittersweet memories (he would have LOVED to have known that, no doubt) of one of his songs. The Reach is from – if memory serves right – a 1981 triple album that he dubbed a “song cycle.” It was a big 6/8 seafaring epic with a full string section, something that actually makes the days of big-budget major label productions seem a whole lot better than they actually were. Even so, not the kind of thing I’d be caught dead listening to under ordinary circumstances:

It’s Maine…
And it’s Autumn
The birches have just begun turning
It’s life and it’s dying
The lobstermen’s boats come returning

With the catch of the day in their holds
and the young boys cold and complaining
The fog meets the beaches and out on
the Reach it is raining…

And the morning will blow away
As the waves crash and fall
And the Reach like a siren sings
as she beckons and calls

As the coastline recedes from view
And the seas swell and roll
I will take from the Reach
all that she has to teach
To the depths of my soul

And it was Maine. And it was autumn. And I wanted to take from the Reach all that she had to teach to the depths of my soul. Except there was no reach. She would graduate in less than a year and I was a freshman, and she knew better (even if we shared a completely  inexplicable fondness for the song, among other equally inexplicable things). She was far too sweet to ever allude to it, but I was the last person anyone should have had a relationship with in those days. I’m still probably the last person anybody should have a relationship with.

And the song is a hornet’s nest of cliches – verbs where they shouldn’t be, adjectives following the noun, all kinds of pathetic, gratuitous attempts at “poetry.” As far as I know this is the only Fogelberg song with any sense of metaphor, whatsoever; all his other stuff is all straight-ahead narrative, no double meanings or other lyrical devices.

I never went so far as to get the album. The only version I have is a muddy, bass-heavy mix recorded off the radio on a cassette tape. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Something tells me that the old hippie would have approved. Wherever you are, Dan Fogelberg, I forgive you for Leader of the Band, Same Old Lang Syne, etc., etc., etc.


December 18, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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