Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dan Fogelberg Addendum:
Allow me to say this about that...

Moon Walking
I have to apologize for the pell-mell nature of the last post. I meant well; I really did. However if for no one else’s satisfaction than my own, I feel I need to stop and take a step back in light of what I’ve learned recently — beyond what I thought I knew about Dan Fogelberg’s career — prior to my posting the first part of this tribute to him on Tuesday morning.

My original inspiration was to throw out a bit of biographical info about the late singer/songwriter’s career, wrapped around a few personal anecdotes regarding my long admiration for his work, then set it all free and move on. It was to be just another unqualified tribute to a qualified musical genius by one of his millions of fans; a simple statement by someone who loved everything about his music and felt that the world should know.

However after writing nine pages of mostly disjointed paragraphs that staggered on and off-topic like a drunken sailor, by 2:30 AM Tuesday morning I still didn’t have anything really cohesive to post.

I had no choice but to extend it into two parts. However after considerable editing and grafting of topical threads, I’m still not really sure what that first installment meant to say — beyond the fact that I am devastated by the loss of a great artist and longtime personal hero. And it is because of the great respect I have for Dan and his memory that I want to take the time to clarify what I wrote earlier, so as to make absolutely sure no one misunderstands my intention.

So as somewhat of a preamble to the rest of what I wanted to say about the beloved troubadour, allow me to dig a little deeper into what was really on my mind these past Sunday and Monday nights, along with a few things that I also just came to realize today.

After re-reading what I had posted in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, I realized that it might have sounded as though I was dismissing the latter portion of Dan’s career as a creative failure compared to his earlier work in the 70s — and that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Clearly, Dan Fogelberg’s status as a pop icon was cemented by his post-1970s work, and that latter flurry of fame did not invalidate anything he’d done in previous years. But although I personally may have been less excited to see the kind of ‘superstar’ success he had in the 80s (and I’ll expound upon that point in my next post), I now realize that my personal opinion pales in significance to the scores of new fans his post-1981 fame has afforded him.

I say, ‘I now realize,’ because prior to Sunday evening, I was smugly ignorant of a lot of things; things that it took until today for me to even begin to figure out.

For one thing, since August 31, 2004, one of Fogelberg’s web sites, has been fielding and posting well wishes from Dan’s many fans ever since he announced his illness. Over ten thousand such notes later, that ‘well wishes’ section has now been closed to new entries and a similar ‘condolences’ section has been added, fielding new e-mail entries from fans, the numbers of which have grown exponentially each day since Dan’s passing.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of days reading what others have had to say about Dan and the impact his music had on their lives. I have been floored — not by the responses themselves, but much more by the number of them citing his 1980s works as their most treasured, and the ones through which they discovered his incredible music.

Never mind what I said about the way ‘Soft Rock’ ruined Dan Fogelberg’s legacy. Screw the idiotic notion that it makes a bit of difference what kind of music Dennis Leary believes made him ‘soft’ in the 1970s.

Despite what I, or anyone else may say, Dan Fogelberg was a true legend in all four decades that spanned his outstanding career. His passion, his honesty, his musical virtuosity were all without question, and in my opinion, without equal as well.

If people don’t think his music was macho enough, then fuck ‘em. Let them eat Korn.

After operating in what I would call ‘successful anonymity’ throughout the 1970s — a fact he himself acknowledged — Dan finally broke through to the mass public in the early 80s, nearly ten years and six successful albums removed from his 1972 debut. He had several top 20 hits throughout the 70s, but had never yet achieved the household name status that he would now reach.

Years ago Fogelberg acknowledged that he considered himself fortunate to have acquired a fan base that wasn’t dependent upon ‘radio success’ to be viable. After 1981’s The Innocent Age, however, he had that radio presence, and the whole world discovered what we ‘old-timers’ had always known. The double album sold like wildfire. This collection of songs contained four of Dan’s most recognizable and memorable hits: Run For The Roses, Hard To Say, Same Old Lang Syne, and his signature salute to his father, Leader Of The Band.

Waterloo-zin’ it
In my original attempt to condense my feelings about Fogelberg into a single post, I stumbled in my reasoning on one issue that, try as I have, has been difficult for me to navigate around. It’s a side issue that I was unsuccessful communicating, regarding Dan’s legacy; something that his post-1970s music always brings to my mind: that ‘Soft Rock vs. the New Millennium Macho-Man’ phenomenon.

Hopefully now I can finally put it into words.

I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m sensitive about how other men might perceive me, regardless of how many times I say that I don’t give a shit. Call it ‘Napoleon Syndrome’ or whatever you wish, but I’d be willing to bet that I’m not alone in that regard. Men are often insecure about their perceived standing amongst each other, hence the posturing and machismo that we all try so hard to show in the conduct of our daily public lives. And as I pointed out previously, it’s all bullshit; smokescreens; window-dressing. The true heart of a man is rarely seen in society these days and that’s a real shame — but one of our own making.

I admit that I may be prone to going a bit overboard in my public disgust regarding the subject, but it is an unfortunate situation to be sure. In my opinion it’s a telltale indication of how much we’ve traveled backwards as a society in my lifetime.

It is those attitudes that stand in sharp contrast to what Dan Fogelberg’s music has come to represent to me: tenderness, emotional honesty, strength through vulnerability — things that were to a large degree celebrated in popular culture thirty-odd years ago.

Dan’s death has triggered such a distinct and frustrating sense of loss in me; a sense that is quickly followed by a righteous indignation that demands to know why our world has changed so dramatically.

I suppose I’m just concerned that we’ve lost the ability to find those qualities again.

For years now the vulnerable, honest, beating male heart in society has been replaced by a hollow, cast-iron counterfeit. Men hide their feelings and pretend to be strong. They avoid honesty — to themselves as well as everyone else — usually at all costs. They seek to keep up the charade of male bravado that tells the world they don’t really need anyone.

This has long been a hot-button topic for me, but I suppose I didn’t realize just how close to the surface it was until DF’s death ignited those feelings afresh within me. And because Dan’s music was so caught in the crossfire of what I believe was a critically fundamental shift in societal mores, from the 70s to the 80s and beyond, I don’t think there was any way for me to completely separate them in an overall discussion.

The bottom line is, I resent the fact that I’ve been conditioned to feel apologetic as a man for enjoying and identifying with music of Fogelberg’s ilk. I specifically loved Dan’s music because it so touched the sensibilities that my father raised me with; sensibilities that I know to be right — that a real man is a whole, emotional being and that it is the coward who hides behind his anger.

Who the hell said it was ‘correct’ anyway?
As I mentioned earlier, Dan Fogelberg’s music and what it represents in our culture now versus 30 years ago is the spark that fuels my frustration, and that the essential argument here actually has nothing to do with music, but rather society and the way we view things so much differently now.

So please forgive the departure here, but I guess this is what it really comes down to for me. I’m sure I’m gonna offend someone, but please hear me out. This is really where the rubber meets the road in what the events of this past week have stirred up inside me

Just when it seemed that our culture had finally begun to allow men to be what their women had always wanted them to be: available, emotionally, that window seemed to suddenly close again by the late 80s. The same old stoic, emotionless standard for men in our culture returned to once again raise its neanderthalic head. However now it was even worse, because the same kind of rationalized excuse for that behavior intertwined with a paradigm shift in behavior all across society.

‘Political Correctness’ was born.

Political correctness seems to me to be an extension of the notion proffered by the 1969 self-help book, I’m Okay, You’re Okay, whose oversimplified explanation of Transactional Analysis, while well-intentioned, seems to have set into motion a ‘one size fits all’ mentality in America with regard to conflict resolution.

PC places a condition — a ‘label’ — on everything. Everything is relative; nothing is absolute; we mustn’t do anything to offend anyone’s sensibilities, so long as they align with the basic concept of the group. Challenging another’s beliefs is not allowed. Everyone is ‘respected.’

Faux courtesy, faux respect, faux friendships are the order of the day.

It’s, ‘don’t say anything bad about me and I won’t say anything bad about you — unless, of course, enough people feel you deserve to be criticized, and then, boy, you’re gonna wish you’d never been born.’

After years of seeking the truth, we became more than willing to be happy with a lie, so long as we felt we were getting R-E-S-P-E-C-T we deserved.

And again, in my opinion, it’s all bullshit.

Political correctness is little more than justified lying — lying in exchange for judgement. You do your thing and I’ll do mine, whether or not it’s wrong. I’ll pretend to care about your ‘rights’ but all I really care about are my own. So let’s not hurt each other’s feelings, aiiight?

It is disingenuousness in its purest form.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I hate deception. I hate lying. I hate subterfuge of any kind. There was a time in my life when our culture hated it too. There was a time when my generation strove for truth; for clarity; for common ground. Dan Fogelberg represented all of that. However society, over the past 25 years or so, has been going steadily in the opposite direction. It’s no wonder that the sensibilities of his music are often mocked by men in our culture.

I think it’s more than pathetic that these days our top-rated TeeVee programs are ‘reality shows’ whose plotlines actually celebrate raunchiness, subterfuge, ‘alliances,’ back-stabbing and deception.

I didn’t believe that commercialism could have gotten any worse than it was in the 60s and 70s, but it has. Blame it on whatever or whomever you wish, but it isn’t about politics, it’s about people. The more they get, the more they want. People are ultimately self-centered, and to believe otherwise is mere delusion.

I realize I’m not all, ‘up with people’ but let’s be real here, shall we? We celebrate the ‘bad boys.’ Goodness is scoffed at in our culture. ‘Nice guys finish last,’ right? We preach kindness, but selfishness and hatred abound.

Sure know how to paint a rosy picture, don’t I?

I’m not trying to be a pessimist; not trying to be a whiner or a complainer. What I’m trying to do is to get us all — myself included — to wake up.

Dan Fogelberg was not a top-of-mind figure for me at the time he died. His music had become little more than a relic of my past; an echo of the unbridled self-confidence and hope I had for the future when I was in my early twenties. But I to a large degree am not the same person I was then. I’m much less idealistic; more jaded; less forgiving or willing to see the goodness in others. And to sit here and say these things about myself makes me nauseous. To realize that I had forgotten about Dan Fogelberg makes me feel ashamed — not because I feel as though I believe I somehow ‘let him down,’ but because in so doing I let myself down by separating myself from his message and the reminder of how his music has always made me feel; feelings that the events of my average daily walk of life don’t often deliver.

Dan Fogelberg never changed. His message, while perhaps losing some of its popularity, never lost its fervency or sense of truth.

I want to celebrate that truth. I want to celebrate the man.
If there are any words that we haven't said
Let us say them
I know all too well how people's lies betray them
More than ever I'll wait for you there
More than ever I will need you to care
And I'll never need more than a prayer to be near you
To be near you
Time is a baby child found in the rain born of fever
She'll bring you pretty songs laced through with lies
But don't you believe her
More than ever I'll wait for you there
More than ever I will need you to care
And I'll never need more than a prayer to be near you
To be near be near you

More Than Ever
From the album, Home Free
Dan Fogelberg ©1972

Dan the mountain man, circa 1975.
Dan the mountain man, circa 1975.


Also see: Since You’ve Asked
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