Saturday, December 22, 2007

Farewell Dan Fogelberg

It's a bit late for a eulogy, but it's not often I read the morning paper, notice some famous person has died, and actually feel a personal loss. When I learned that Dan Fogelberg had died of prostate cancer at age 56 on Dec. 16, I actually let out a groan of sympathy. My daughter overheard and asked what was wrong. I told her and, naturally, she didn't know who he was.

He hasn't been much of a presence in recent years, and he was never a superstar, though he had a handful of "soft rock" hits like "Leader of the Band" and "The Power of Gold." I haven't really thought much about him and I had no idea he was sick. I also didn't realize that he was barely a year older than I. Coincidentally, just a few weeks ago, I was goofing with my old record player and I put on Fogelberg's "Netherlands" album. It's one of those albums that constituted a soundtrack to a period of my life. We used to keep it on rotation on The Farm stereo when that rural enclave was a social nexus to our strange extended family and to an orbiting collection of friends. The album has held up well as a heartbreakingly beautiful and passionate rock symphony. Dan was a musician who could play highly melodic and sentimental music and retain an artistic credibility. Even my old friend Stuart Murphy, a music industry insider who had a pretty critical ear, always liked him.

After The Farm began to disintegrate and my family split up, I found myself living in Baton Rouge with my dad. I'd been doing odd jobs, mostly printing, and I had even tried working in the Gulf as a galley hand on a drilling rig, but it's safe to say I was floundering. I'd settled on a job at a Kroger grocery store, stocking shelves at night, just when Fogelberg's New Years Eve opus "Same Old Lang Syne" was getting some airplay.

The lyrics tell the story of a chance encounter between the musician and an old flame in a supermarket. He's become famous. She's married with kids. They share a beer in the parking lot. She leaves. He stands there alone in the snow with only his thoughts.

During those long winter nights the song would play on the store's sound system in the wee hours and always took me to some place lonely and sad, but I could never resist the trip. I'd find myself looking forward to it each night. The haunting coda, "and the snow turned into rain" was my reminder that you can connect with the past, briefly, but you can't go back. That was pretty poignant for me in those "cusp" years between The Farm and the Sideshow Pizzeria and old long-time girlfriend Pam on the one hand and the totally alien future on the other.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rick,

Although we don't know each, I stumbled about your blog as I was Googling the lyrics of Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne".

Your comments were beautiful and right on the money. In particular, I can absolutely relate to your words:

"During those long winter nights the song would play on the store's sound system in the wee hours and always took me to some place lonely and sad, but I could never resist the trip. I'd find myself looking forward to it each night."

However, I was literally snapped back to reality with your ensuing words:

"The haunting coda, "and the snow turned into rain" was my reminder that you can connect with the past, briefly, but you can't go back. That was pretty poignant for me..."

Having just gotten back from two days of a gut-wrenching emotional experience, supporting my best boyhood friend as he dealt with the sudden and unexpected death of his 50 year old wife and mother of his two sons, I found myself living out Dan's "Same Old Lang Syne". It wasn't beers in the parking lot, but rather bottled water and green tea in a Starbuck's, but the overall theme was the same. And although it wasn't a chance encounter with an old lover, but rather a call to her home from me informing her of the tragic death, once again the theme was the same. Even though the four of us were all close friends 28 years ago and double-dated quite often, I went my separare way to seek that "better life". The feeling of coming back to my old neighborhood after some 26 years of being away and reconnecting with the past, in particular with the woman that I had loved dearly and that I had every intention of marrying, can probably be best described by the line, "and the snow turned into rain."

As we left that Starbucks, I absolutely felt that old familiar pain, and this song immediately popped into my head. The several hour drive through two states to get back to my lovely wife and kids, gave me more time than was humanely necessary to contemplate what had just happened, what could have been, how I had deeply hurt her those many years ago, and why I was even thinking these thoughts given that I have a happy marriage and home life. In other words, I was totally screwed up and very lost.

I must say, with the backdrop that everything is relative, that my journey to elevate myself (at least financially) from my middle-class roots was highly successful, and although not a musician, I feel as though I am in the same position as the musician in the song versus his old lover.

I cannot thank you enough for your insightful and painfully realistic view that:

"..."and the snow turned into rain" was my reminder that you can connect with the past, briefly, but you can't go back. That was pretty poignant for me..."

Well, as much as I didn't want to believe that last night, that realization is what I needed this morning. It is absolutely ironic that I happened to find that helpful guidance on your blog.

Thank you for helping a total stranger.

Bill

Rick Broussard said...

Bill, Thanks for the note. Blogging is so much like talking to oneself, it's nice to know you even get seen by anyone, much less read and appreciated. And somehow there is comfort in knowing that "screwed up and very lost" is not a uniquely personal situation.

Anonymous said...

Rick,I believe that "comfort" that you are feeling is known as "misery loves company".

Anonymous said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY !
I SURE HAVE ALWAYS WISHED FOR YOU THE BEST & STILL DO MY FRIEND.
I TALKED TO JOHN THE OTHER DAY, HE SOUNDS GREAT. PLEASE TELL YOUR WONDERFUL WIFE I SAID HELLO. I CAN HARDLY BELIEVE THE KIDS ARE GROWN. WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?
LOVE TO YOU ALL
PAM

Rick said...

Pam! I guess your ears must have been tingling when I wrote this. I've been going through some old journals I wrote when I was working off shore and transcribing them. That along with the recent reunion and a bunch of photos that are getting uploaded to Flickr and Photobucket and bringing the past back in some surprising ways. Nice to hear from you. Tell Dennis he owes me a visit if you see him and I'll pass along your wishes the Jemi and the family. Same to yours. I can't even imagine what your girls must be like as grown-up ladies. --Rick