Fogelberg, Dan (Contemporary Musicians)
Singer, songwriter, guitarist
As one of countless singer/songwriter's to emerge from the conciousness-raising years of the early 1970s, Fogelberg became a success with his melodic, "light" rock songs that usually explored the bittersweet aspects of love and relationships. He was by no means a great critical success, but his sound was pleasing to a generation of rock fans whose musical tastes had tempered since the disonant, heavily electric, acid rock days of the late 1960s.
Fogelberg's smooth sound was the result of a tried-and-true approach that helped launch the careers of such similar artists as James Taylor, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King. Though Fogelberg was not as commercially successful as those performers, his following has remained relatively strong to the present day, despite a growing impatience on the part of rock critics who have been waiting for some kind of evolution in Fogelberg's musical development. "Fogelberg is an incurable romantic, and after one or two songs you're ready for someone to find a cure," writes Mark Peel in a review of the 1987 album Exiles in Stereo Review. "It wouldn't be so bad if he had something new or interesting to say about love, but all he does is recycle the tired excuses and rationalizations couples use on one another when they're too lazy to think."
Growing up in Peoria, Illinois, in the 1950s, Fogelberg, the son of a band leader father and an opera student mother, was "constantly surrounded by good music, whether I liked it or not," he told Rolling Stone. He played the piano as a child and later began composing songs on the guitar. Fogelberg entered the University of Illinois as an art student, but after two years he became such a hit on the Midwest coffee-house circuit that he was compelled to head west in search of a recording contract. In Los Angeles Fogelberg tried to find work as a session musician and eventually caught the eye of singer Van Morrison, who made Fogelberg part of his touring band. Eventually he signed with Columbia and moved to Nashville to record his first album, Home Free (1972), a critically acclaimed effort that was nonetheless virtually ignored by the label, which eventually dropped Fogelberg from its roster.
But Fogelberg persevered in Nashville, working with such musicians as Roger McGuinn, Randy Newman, and Michael Stanley, and eventually things turned around for him. He was signed by the Epic label and came under the management of his old friend Irving Azoff (they had met when Azoff was scouting for talent in Champaign, Illinois), who had established his reputation as manager of Joe Walsh and the Eagles. The Fogelberg/Azoff relationship culminated in the 1974 LP Souvenirs, which featured backing by Don Henley, Graham Nash, Glenn Frey, and Walsh (who also produced it). Souvenirs, helped along by the hit single "Part of the Plan," went gold and launched Fogelberg into stardom stardom that Fogelberg not only expected, but planned. "I planned every step of this," he told Rolling Stone. "I mean, this pop music isn't going to last forever. You gotta realize that there's a five-year period or so when your peak popularity isou're lucky if it lasts that long."
Fogelberg certainly took advantage of his "peak popularity." He followed Souvenirs with the 1975 release Captured Angel and the 1976 album Nether Lands, both of which went gold. Then, in 1978, he collaborated with flutist Tim Weisberg on the platinum-selling LP Twin Sons of Different Mothers. This was followed by Phoenix, a 1980 release that sold more than two million copies, and The Innocent Age, another Top Ten-selling record. Despite his obvious appeal among record-buyers, Fogelberg, a recluse by nature, has never relished touring, preferring instead to remain secluded on the ranch he purchased near Boulder, Colorado, the moment he could afford to move away from the L.A. music scene. Nevertheless the singer has established himself as a solid touring act with a top-notch road band, known as Fool's Gold, who have themselves cut a couple of relatively successful albums.
If Fogelberg does make a break in the future from the time-honored formula that has brought him success, it just might be in the unlikely area of classical composition. Fogelberg's music-loving parents exposed their son to a wide breadth of classical music when he was a child, and as he grew older he realized that those old records he was once forced to listen to actually contained some of the world's great music. He has dabbled in composing a concerto and even a ballet, though he admits that the stakes in that game are entirely different than those in popular music. "It's a little harder to compete against Tchaikovsky and Grieg," Fogelberg told Rolling Stone.
Home Free, Columbia, 1972.
Souvenirs, Epic, 1974.
Captured Angel, Epic, 1975.
Nether Lands, Epic, 1977.
Phoenix, Epic, 1980.
The Innocent Age, Epic, 1981.
Greatest Hits, Epic, 1981.
Windows and Walls, Epic, 1984.
High Country Snows, Epic, 1985.
Exiles, Epic, 1987.
With Tim Weisberg
Twin Sons of Different Mothers, Epic, 1978.
Clifford, Mike, The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Harmony Books, 1986.
Pareles, Jon, and Patricia Romanowski, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock, Rolling Stone Press, 1983.
Rolling Stone, August 25, 1977.
Stereo Review, October 1987.