February 22, 2008

Dan Fogelberg: A Remembrance

During the 1970’s there was a small music club in Nashville, Tennessee, called the Exit/In that was “the place” for listening to live music. On one particular evening after dinner with a friend, we walked across the street to the alley entrance (hence its name) of the Exit/In. At the door, we asked who would be playing that night – it was Dan Fogelberg.

At the time, I had not heard of Dan Fogelberg. We were told at the door that he was a folk singer/songwriter who played guitar and piano, and would be performing solo. That was good enough for me. The Exit/In had a separate bar and a “listening room” with tables that provided a small, intimate setting for listening to live music. We sat within a few feet of the small, low stage, and Dan Fogelberg. The performance that night was incredible and I was a new fan.

Fogelberg was living in Nashville at the time doing session work and trying to get his musical career off the ground. He had just released his first album “Home Free”. That first album was not a great commercial success, but it got enough attention to have Joe Walsh produce his second album. That album, “Souvenirs”, along with the single “Part of the Plan”, took off and a star was born.

Fogelberg’s career went through a succession of 15 studio albums – most going gold or platinum. His most successful song was the 1979 love song “Longer.” However, it would be the following double-album that would take him to the peak of his career. “The Innocent Age” was a very personal album that produced what would become his most memorable songs: “Leader of the Band,” a tribute to his bandleader father, and “Same Old Lang Syne,” a song about an actual chance meeting with an old love at Christmastime.

His music was usually defined as soft rock, but he also recorded country, bluegrass, and jazz. His songwriting was often personal, reflecting on emotional issues. He was also known for his live performances and through the years I was also able to see him perform at the Opry House in Nashville, a coliseum show at Auburn University in Alabama, and at Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, North Carolina. These later performances were far different from that early setting at the Exit/In.

Fogelberg’s last studio album was “Full Circle” released in 2003. It was a fitting album because it was not only one of his best, but was also a return to the music he was recording early in his career encompassing the same heart felt sound and poignant writing. As he was preparing for a tour in 2004, he received a diagnosis of prostate cancer. With his musical career on hold, he battled the cancer, but on December 16th, 2007, Dan Fogelberg died. He was 56.

Fogelberg was part of a musical era that brought the songwriter to the forefront with the likes of James Taylor, Carole King, and Jackson Browne. His music found a home along with the folk/country-rock sounds of The Eagles, and Crosby Stills and Nash. With his soft contemplative songs, it seems almost ironic that one of his best friends was Jimmy Buffett. Of his own work Fogelberg said, “You’ve got to just follow your heart and do your best work… There is no doubt in my mind or heart that everything I’ve done is exactly what I intended to do.”

And now, he is gone. In his passing, he has left us with thirty-plus years of wonderful music – and memories.

And down in the canyon
The smoke starts to rise.
It rides on the wind
Till it reaches your eyes.
When faced with the past
The strongest man cries...cries.

And here is a sunrise
To set on your sill.
The ghosts of the dawn
Moving near.
They pass through your sorrow
And leave you quite still...
Sitting among souvenirs.

(Dan Fogelberg, from Souvenirs)

— Dan Hardison

Web site for Dan Fogelberg

Photo by Dan Hardison
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

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February 15, 2008

A Better Understanding

If we truly enjoy something, would it not be normal instinct to want to learn more about it? Would it not be true that the more we learn and understand about a subject, the more fully we can appreciate it? Would this not be true in the arts as well?

I had a friend who loved opera. He actually took voice lessons not because he wanted to be a singer, but to have a better understanding of the music and the dedication and talent required to produce it.

I myself learned to read music and to play the guitar because of my love for the instrument and music in general. Although I no longer play today, does not this knowledge contribute to my appreciation of music and in particular my preference for guitar music?

There is the old cliché of someone viewing an abstract painting and commenting, “Oh, I could do that”. So why not? The truth is that even though something may appear simple, it is usually much harder to achieve. But if it is something we really enjoy, why not try our hand at it. The worst that could happen is that in the end, we would have a better appreciation of the artistic effort.

Many times, it is this quest for learning, for understanding, that increases the enjoyment of the art. After attending an exhibition of white-line woodblock prints many years ago, I became fascinated with the medium. Later, I attempted to teach myself the technique. After much reading and observation of other artists’ work; after the trial and error of trying to perfect the craftsmanship of carving the block and developing the technique of printing the individual colors; after many failures and many hours of frustration – success. But whether or not I ever create another white-line woodblock print, I now have an even greater understanding and appreciation of the process – as well as a sense of accomplishment.

Poet Luci Shaw has said, “Everybody's born with the ability to create in one form or the other… If we could just reawaken that freedom to express ourselves in those creative ways, a lot of healing would come, because it's making us whole people again. It's not just this practical, left-brained, functional person, who's able to make a living and keep body and soul together. If we only had a functional world that would be enough; but God, in his grace, has given us this wonderful extra, beauty, which shouldn't just be an extra, it should be integral to our psyche.”

— Dan Hardison

Image "River Tug"
white-line woodblock print, 11" x 8 1/4"
By Dan Hardison

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February 8, 2008

Before I Sleep

If I have let
this day pass by
and can’t remember
something good about it,
then I have been ungrateful

and I beg forgiveness.

If I have been involved
too much with me …
my wants and woes,
to see the beauty
that surrounds me,
then I have been played the fool

and I am sorry.

If I have not
stretched out my hands
to loved ones
to show them that I care,
then I have been unfeeling

and I am ashamed.

If I have failed to help
when it was needed,
yet asked others to help me
then I have been selfish

and I apologize.

If I have not seen
the face of God
reflected in a million ways
and places,
then I have been blind

and I ask for another chance

to try again


Jim Metcalf
From his book “In Some Quiet Place”

Photo by Dan Hardison
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

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February 2, 2008

Morning Light

Rising to fading stars
and a night that is surrendering
to the quiet of the morning
before the day fully wakes.

This is a time of day
that only a select may know
as nighttime is shuttered
to morning light streaming in.

It’s that time of day
when dreams are still realized
before the light of day
can steal them away.

Nothing is ever the same
after this time has passed
when the first light of morning
turns night into day.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

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