Fogelberg was the youngest of three sons born to Margaret Irvine, a classically trained pianist, and Lawrence Peter Fogelberg, a high school band director who spent most of his career at Peoria’s Woodruff High School and Pekin High School. Dan’s mother was a Scottish immigrant, and his father was of Swedish descent. His father would later be the inspiration for the song, “Leader of the Band”. Using a Mel Bay course book, Dan taught himself to play a Hawaiian slide guitar that his grandfather gave him. He also learned to play the piano. At 14 he joined a band, The Clan, which covered hits by the Beatles. His second band was another cover band called The Coachmen, who in 1967, released two singles written by Fogelberg on Ledger Records: “Maybe Time Will Let Me Forget” and “Don’t Want To Lose Her.”
After graduating from Woodruff High School in 1969, Fogelberg studied theater arts and painting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while playing local venues with a folk-rock band, The Ship, and also began performing as a solo acoustic player in area cafes. One of these included the Red Herring, which is where he made his first solo recordings as part of a folk festival in 1971. He was discovered by Irving Azoff, who started his music management career promoting another Champaign-Urbana act, REO Speedwagon. Azoff sent him to Nashville, Tennessee to hone his skills. There he became a session musician and recorded his first album with producer Norbert Putnam. In 1972, Fogelberg released his debut album “Home Free” to lukewarm response, although it eventually reached platinum status. He performed as an opening act for Van Morrison.
Fogelberg’s second effort was much more successful. The 1974 Joe Walsh-produced album “Souvenirs” contained the song “Part of the Plan” which became Fogelberg’s first hit. After “Souvenirs”, he released a string of gold and platinum albums, including “Captured Angel” (1975) and “Nether Lands” (1977), and found commercial success with songs such as “The Power of Gold”. His 1978 “Twin Sons of Different Mothers” was the first of two collaborations with jazz flautist Tim Weisberg. 1979’s “Phoenix” reached the Top 10, with “Longer” becoming a #2 pop hit (and wedding standard) in 1980. The track peaked at #59 on the UK Singles Chart, his sole entry. The album reached #42 on the UK Albums Chart, likewise his only entry there. It was followed by a Top 20 hit “Heart Hotels”.
“The Innocent Age”, released in October 1981, was Fogelberg’s critical and commercial peak. The double album included four of his biggest hits: “Same Old Lang Syne”, “Hard to Say”, “Leader of the Band”, and “Run for the Roses”. He drew inspiration for the album from Thomas Wolfe’s novel “Of Time and the River”. A 1982 greatest hits album contained two new songs, both of which were released as singles: “Missing You” and “Make Love Stay.” In 1984, he released the album “Windows and Walls”, containing the singles “The Language of Love” and “Believe in Me.”
Fogelberg released “High Country Snows” in 1985. Recorded in Nashville, it showcased his and some of the industry’s best talent in bluegrass. Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Doc Watson, Jerry Douglas, David Grisman, Chris Hillman, and Herb Pedersen contributed to the record.
In a world he defined as “life in the fast lane,” Fogelberg described the music as “life in the off-ramp.” In late 1985, he switched gears and took to the road with a group of musician friends, including Joe Vitale and Rick Rosas, playing blues in small clubs throughout Colorado as Frankie and the Aliens, covering songs by Cream and Muddy Waters, among others. 1987 heralded a return to rock with “Exiles”, an album that contained “What You’re Doing,” a throwback to the old Stax Records sound made famous in Memphis during the 1960s. While touring in New England early in 1988, he came across an issue of Nine-O-One Network Magazine which was published in Memphis, and he called the publisher, James L. Dickinson (aka James Luther Dickinson, Jim Dickinson, producer, keyboardist for Rolling Stones, et al) and an interview resulted that landed him on the cover of the April 1988 issue. Known for his many relationship songs, he confessed that he hadn’t had a lot of relationships and wrote based on his observations of other people’s relationships. “The Wild Places”, an album whose theme was the preservation of nature, was released in 1990 followed by a tour. His live “Greetings From The West” album was released in 1991.
“River of Souls”, released in 1993, was Fogelberg’s last studio album for Sony Records. In 1997, the box set “Portrait” encompassed his career with four discs, each highlighting a different facet of his music: “Ballads,” “Rock and Roll,” “Tales and Travels,” and “Hits.” In 1999, he released a Christmas album, “The First Christmas Morning”, and in 2003, “Full Circle” showcased a return to the folk-influenced 1970s soft rock style of music.
Fogelberg had married three times: to Maggie Slaymaker, a dancer from Nashville, from 1982–1985; to Anastasia Savage, a nurse and artist from Louisiana, from 1991–1996; and to musician Jean Marie Mayer, from April 7, 2002 until his death in late 2007, yet produced no children.
In May 2004, he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, and after undergoing therapy, he achieved a partial remission. On August 13, 2005, his 54th birthday, he announced the success of his cancer treatments. He said that he had no immediate plans to return to making music but was keeping his options open. However, his cancer returned, and in 2007, died at his home in Deer Isle, Maine. His ashes were scattered into the Atlantic Ocean.
Fogelberg’s widow announced that a song written and recorded by Fogelberg for her Valentine’s Day 2005, “Sometimes a Song,” would be sold on the Internet and that all proceeds would go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The song was released Valentine’s Day 2008 and was also included on a CD released in September 2009 titled “Love In Time”, a collection of 11 previously unpublished songs.
In tribute to Fogelberg and the Fogelberg family, the city of Peoria renamed Abington Street in the city’s East Bluff neighborhood “Fogelberg Parkway”. The street runs along the northeast side of Woodruff High School, Fogelberg’s alma mater, and where his father was a teacher and bandleader. “Fogelberg Parkway” continues northwest, then west, to the intersection of N. Prospect and E. Frye, the location of the convenience store where Fogelberg ran into his old high school sweetheart one Christmas Eve, a chance encounter described in the song “Same Old Lang Syne”.
A group of Fogelberg’s fans raised funds to create a permanent memorial. The memorial garden, placed in Riverfront Park, was dedicated in a ceremony on August 28, 2010.
In the 1998 movie “BASEketball” Ernest Borgnine’s character, Ted Denslow, lists Dan Fogelberg as a reason why “People today have attention spans that can only be measured in nanoseconds” along with loud music, hula hoops, the failed alcoholic beverage ZIMA, and Pac-Man video games.READ MORE: