Observations on Life, Faith, Media & Technology

Another Auld Lang Syne

Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned in to rain…

Danandjean Singer/Songwriter Dan Fogleberg lost his battle with prostate cancer yesterday morning at 6:00 am at his home in Maine, with his wife Jean by his side.  He was only 56 years old.  Fogleberg is best known for a string of megahits in the 70s, 80s and 90s, including “Longer,” “The Power of Gold” and “Run for the Roses” and “Same Old Lang Syne.”

The song that meant the most to me was the deeply personal portrait of his father, “The Leader of the Band.”  As I journeyed with my father through the last year and a half of his life, this song touched a deep place in my heart.

I thank you for the music and your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough
And, papa, I don’t think I said “I love you” near enough

The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I am a living legacy to the leader of the band

To this day I can’t hear that song without getting a lump in my throat when I hear the line “…and he gave to me a gift I know I never can repay.”

Dan Fogleberg was diagnosed in May, 2004 with advanced prostate cancer.  In a message posted earlier on his website, he stressed the need for men to be examined for prostate cancer, which can literally save your life.  “Do yourself and your loved ones a huge favor and GET CHECKED REGULARLY. I promise you, you DON’T want to go through what I’m going through if you can avoid it,” he wrote.

Fogleberg was a gifted storyteller, which is what made his songs so compelling.  In an interview a couple of years ago, he talked about “Leader of the Band” being his favorite song because of what it meant to his family, and also expressed how surprised he was that “Same Old Lang Syne” became a hit, much less a holiday staple.  It is very long – between 5 and 6 minutes – which usually means less radio airplay, especially in 1981 when “The Innocent Age” was released.

The reason the song became a hit was the story it told spoke to a shared melancholy most of us have about the past, a feeling that is sometimes more pronounced during the Holiday season. I like “Old Lang Syne,” especially the plaintive jazz saxophone playing “Auld Lang Syne” at the end of the song, but if I had to pick a Fogleberg song to listen to at Christmas, I would pick one of the selections from his 1999 album “The First Christmas Morning.”  Fogleberg turned his songwriting skills to tell a timeless story:

Away in the east shines a star in the sky
That leads us to where He is born
And bearing good tidings and gifts we shall give
To Him on this first Christmas morning
To Him on this first Christmas morning

Holy our journey and holy our love
That takes us to find and adore Him
And blessed the baby that sleeps in his bed
And wakes on this first Christmas morning
And wakes on this first Christmas morning

The Lord in His wisdom, the Lord in His grace
Has given to man a redeemer
To save us from sin and to show us the light
That shines on this first Christmas morning
And will shine ever each Christmas morning

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