Biography of Dan Fogelberg



Dan Fogelberg (born Daniel Grayling Fogelberg in 1951 – died in 2007) was an American singer-songwriter and musician who enjoyed the peak of his commercial success in the late 1970s throughout the early 1980s. His most remembered and popular songs are “Leader Of The Band” and “Longer”.

After performing at local venues in his home state in Illinois, a discovery by veteran personal manager Irving Azoff led Fogelberg to be sent to Nashville, Tennessee, to develop his talents. His first album Home Free was met with tepid reception, but his sophomore effort Souvenirs in 1974 became much more successful.

Since Souvenirs Fogelberg released albums that became certified gold and platinum –Captured Angel, Nether Lands, Phoenix, The Innocent Age, Windows and Wallsand High Country Snows. HisGreatest Hits released in 1982 was also certified multiplatinum. Many of his singles became successful as well – “Longer”, “Same Old Lang Syne”, “Hard To Say” and “Leader Of The Band”, while more of them were charting high on the adult contemporary singles listings. His last studio album was River Of Souls, released in 1993. In 2007 Fogelberg died of advanced prostate cancer, aged 56.

Early life and career

Mellow folk rock/country singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg enjoyed the peak of his commercial success in the late 1970s throughout the early 1980s. He was born Daniel Grayling Fogelberg in Peoria, Illinois on August 13, 1951. Music was in his blood, as his father was a high school band director and his mother was a classically trained pianist.  He learned to play many instruments like the guitar and even dabbled with the Steel Tongue Drum.

While still attending university, Fogelberg began to play in local clubs and venues, along with his own band The Ship. A discovery by veteran personal manager Irving Azoff led Fogelberg to be sent to Nashville, Tennessee, to hone and develop his talents.

His debut album Home Free (1972) was met with tepid reception, but as the years passed it eventually went into platinum. Fogelberg’s second effort Souvenirs (1974) became much more successful, yielding his first charting single “Part of the Plan” which reached the Top 40. Souvenirs would eventually reach double-platinum status.

Taste of commercial success

Fogelberg’s third and fourth albums Captured Angel (1975) and Nether Lands (1977), respectively, were equally successful, both achieving the platinum certification. These albums’ success would pave the way to his next album Phoenix (1979). It brought him his first major hit “Longer,” which reached #2 on Billboard pop chart and topped the adult contemporary singles chart. This love ballad would become a staple of many wedding events, and cemented Fogelberg’s status as a mellow rock/soft rock star. Phoenix sold over two million copies, earning a platinum certification.

In 1978, Fogelberg teamed up with Tim Weisberg to record Twin Songs of Different Mothers, which featured the #24 pop hit “The Power Of Gold.” The album itself went to #8 on the Billboard 200.

Later life and career

Phoenix’s follow-up The Innocent Age (1981) also went double platinum on the strength of the singles “Same Old Lang Syne” (#9 pop, #8 adult contemporary), “Hard To Say” (#7 pop, #2 adult contemporary), “Leader Of The Band” (#9 pop, #1 adult contemporary) and “Run For The Roses” (#18 pop, #3 adult contemporary). Despite The Innocent Age‘s other singles faring relatively better on the charts than “Leader Of The Band,” that song grew to be more enduring each passing year. It was probably because Fogelberg wrote this as a touching tribute to his father who as above mentioned was a high school band director, the “leader of the band.”

In 1982, Dan Fogelberg released his first-ever Greatest Hits compilation, which became one of his best-selling efforts. It sold three million copies and was certified multi-platinum. Greatest Hits also featured two new songs “Missing You” (#23 pop, #6 adult contemporary) and “Make Love Stay” (#29 pop, #1 adult contemporary).

In 1984, he released Windows and Walls, which went gold and featured the top 20 pop single “The Language of Love”. The following year Fogelberg issued his Nashville-recorded bluegrass album High Country Snows, which also went gold. In 1987 he returned to his usual soft rock material with Exiles, which was best remembered for the singles “Lonely In Love” and “She Don’t Look Back”, both of which became minor hits. For a time Fogelberg eschewed his usual theme of love and relationships when he released another LP The Wild Places, which touched on the preservation of the environment. In 1993, he released the world-music-flavored River Of Souls. The year 1995 saw the releases of his second compilation album Love Songs and another album with Weisberg, No Resemblance Whatsoever.

Columbia Records chronicled Fogelberg’s first 25 years in the music business with a four-CD boxed set Portrait, released in 1997. He ended the 1990s with a Christmas album The First Christmas Morning, and in 2003 released his last studio album during his lifetime, Full Circle, which found him returning to his early acoustic career.

The following year, Fogelberg was diagnosed with an advanced prostate cancer. After a three-year battle with the disease, he passed away in late 2007, aged 56. Two years later, a collection of previously unreleased songs made it to the posthumously-released album Love In Time.

Interesting Facts about Dan Fogelberg

Dan Fogelberg was known for his soft rock and folk rock style, and his music touched the hearts of millions of fans around the world. But if you want to get to know the singer-songwriter a little bit better, here are some facts about him you may want to know:

Dan Fogelberg was born into a family of musicians

Fogelberg was born on August 13, 1951, in Peoria, Illinois. The youngest of three sons, he grew up in a musical family. His mother, Margaret (née Irvine), was a classically trained pianist, and his father, Lawrence Peter Fogelberg, was an established musician, teacher, and band leader. His father worked as a band director at Woodruff High School in Peoria, Pekin Community High School in Pekin, and Bradley University in Peoria. Fogelberg was “constantly surrounded by good music, whether I liked it or not,” he told the Rolling Stone.

He started playing music at a young age

Fogelberg started playing music at a young age and was proficient in several instruments, including the guitar, piano, and mandolin. His first instrument was the piano, which he took to well enough. For him, music mattered more than any sports that his peers were preoccupied with.

He “conducted” a school band at the age of 4

One of Dan’s fondest memories of his father was when his dad allowed him to “conduct” the Bradley University School Band when he was just four years old. It was a core memory for him, giving us an insight into how he relished moments with his father.

The Beatles inspired him to write songs

The Beatles in 1964
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When he heard The Beatles for the first time when he was 12 years old, not only did it reveal to him how electric guitars could sound – it also made him notice for the first time that songwriting is central to what musicians do. At that point, he started picking up on the music of Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard – all of whom were in the Beatles’ repertory. Soon after, he started writing his own songs. He was composing songs on his guitar.

He was a churchgoer

If there’s a “God-shaped space” in everyone, Fogelberg’s heart is filled with music. He and his family used to go to church, but Dan loved the music more as he was bored by the sermons.

He taught himself how to play the Hawaiian guitar

An image of A Fender lap steel (Hawaiian) guitar

At the age of 12, Fogelberg received a Hawaiian slide guitar as a gift from his grandfather. He used a Mel Bay course book to teach himself to play it until he became a pro.

He joined bands as a teenager

By the time he was 13, he was in a band called The Clan, which mostly played school events with a repertory that consisted of Beatles songs. Of all the members of The Clan, he was the only one who stayed musically inclined, and his tastes evolved with the music that he heard around him.

In his mid-teens, he listened to Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Neil Young, Gene Clark, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Chris Hillman, and others. He found inspiration in their music, and his second band, The Coachmen, started out by doing Paul Revere & the Raiders-style R&B and evolved into a more progressive folk-rock sound – even embracing Springfield’s more ambitious performance style.  

He tried to dabble in acting and painting

Fogelberg’s talents were on the creative side. After finishing high school, he went on to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a drama major who hoped for an acting career. Later on, he switched to painting.

He was discovered while playing in cafes

While in college, he played at local venues with a folk-rock band, The Ship. Then, he started to perform as a solo acoustic player in area cafes, including a club called The Red Herring. This was where he caught the attention of a University of Illinois alumnus Irving Azoff, who started his music management career promoting another Urbana-Champaign act, REO Speedwagon.

Azoff convinced Fogelberg to focus on music and set him to Nashville, Tennessee, to hone his skills. Fogelberg became a session musician and recorded his first album with producer Norbert Putnam.

He got his first recording contract under the legendary Clive Davis

Clive Davis is a big name in the music industry. A highly successful record label boss, Davis signed some huge names in the pop music industry and was responsible for influencing and mentoring some of the greatest artists of all time. He launched the careers of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow, Kenny G, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, and Alicia Keys, among others.

Fogelberg was also one of the lucky artists who came under his leadership. His demo tape when he was starting was good enough to get serious attention from David Geffen at Asylum Records and Jerry Moss at A&M Records. But it was Clive Davis, who was at Columbia Records at the time, who got Fogelberg under contract.

His most popular song was inspired by his father

One of Fogelberg’s most popular songs was “Leader of the Band.” This hit was a tribute to his father for his 1970 album Phoenix, but he deemed it too sentimental for the album. He didn’t release it until 1981 as one of the tracks on The Innocent Age.

He caught the attention of Van Morrison

Van Morrison performing in 2009
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When Fogelberg was trying to find work as a session musician in Los Angeles, he caught the eye of signer Van Morrison. Morrison made him a part of his touring band. He even performed as an opening act for Morrison in the early 70s.

His breakthrough album was “Souvenirs”

Fogelberg released his debut album, Home Free, in 1972. It never generated a hit single to help drive sales, so very few people heard it. His breakthrough album was Souvenirs, which was released in 1974. The album featured the song “Part of the Plan,” which was his first hit. Produced by Joe Walsh, the album Souvenirs ended up getting double platinum, and “Part of the Plan” reached the Top 20 in 1974.

He worked with The Eagles and other big artists

An image of The Eagles performing in a concert in 2010

In his album Souvenirs, Fogelberg received contributions from the Eagles, as he toured with the band during that time. It featured backing vocals from Don Henley, Graham Nash, Glenn Frey, and Walsh, who also produced it. It was probably one of the reasons why his album clicked with the mainstream audience, unlike his first album, which was deemed a little too country-sounding for the public.

Fogelberg collaborated with several other musicians throughout his career, including Tim Weisberg. He also produced albums for several other artists, including Jennifer Warnes and Michael Martin Murphey.

He knows how to take advantage of “peak popularity”

After the success of Souvenirs, Fogelberg told the Rolling Stones that he planned every step of this because “pop music isn’t going to last forever.” He said, “You gotta realize that there’s a five-year period or so when your peak popularity is – you’re lucky if it lasts that long.”

He really took advantage of his “peak popularity.” After Souvenirs, he released a string of gold and platinum albums, including Captured Angel (1975) and Nether Lands (1977). Then, he collaborated with flutist Tim Weisberg on his platinum-selling LP Twin Sons of Different Mothers in 1978. This was followed by his 1980 album, Phoenix, which sold more than two million copies.

In 1981, Fogelberg released The Innocent Age, his critical and commercial peak album. The double album included four of his biggest hits, “Leader of the Band,” “Hard to Say,” “Same Old Lang Syne,” and “Run for the Roses.” He then released a greatest hits album, including two new songs. Then in 1984, he released Windows and Walls, an album that contained the singles “The Language of Love” and “Believe in Me.”

He was a recluse by nature

Despite his obvious appeal among buyers of his albums, Fogelberg has never relished touring because he was a recluse by nature. He preferred to remain secluded on the ranch he bought near Boulder, Colorado when he afforded to move away from the LA music scene. After the release of his 1985 album, which did not click with the public as much as his previous albums did, he somewhat withdrew from the music scene. Instead, he played anonymously in bars around Colorado, seeming to be headed back to his teenage roots.

He was married three times

Like most people, Fogelberg also loved and lost in love. The rock star had a pretty unstable romantic life, being married three times until finally staying married to Jean Marie Mayer until his death in 2007. His first wife was Maggie Slaymaker, and the couple was married from 1982 to 1985. Anastasia Savage was his second wife from 1991 to 1996 and later got married to Mayer in 2002.

He was a talented painter

In addition to his musical talents, Fogelberg was also a talented painter. He often created paintings to accompany his music, and his artwork was featured on several of his albums covers.

He passed away due to prostate cancer

Fogelberg passed away on December 16, 2007, at the age of 56. He had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer three years earlier and had been receiving treatment. The unfortunate condition caused him to die while asleep.

A street in Peoria, Illinois, was named in honor of Daniel Fogelberg

As a tribute to Fogelberg, Abington Street in the city’s East Bluff neighborhood was renamed “Fogelberg Parkway.” The street runs along the northeast side of Woodruff High School, his alma mater and the same school where his father was a music teacher and band leader for many years.

He was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame

In 2017, Fogelberg was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame at its Rocky Mountain Way induction concert.


Dan Fogelberg was a talented musician and songwriter whose music touched the hearts of millions of fans around the world. His heartfelt lyrics, beautiful melodies, and emotional depth made him one of the most iconic soft rock singers in the music industry.

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