Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg, who epitomized the California soft-rock sound of the 1970s and early ’80s, died yesterday at the young age of 56 after a confrontation with prostate cancer. Fogelberg, who was ridiculously successful during a nearly twenty-year period when his hyper-romantic ballads were in constant rotation on radio stations throughout the nation (of both pop and country formats), was frequently derided for being either (a) sappy, (b) wimpy, or (c) sappy and wimpy.
But Fogelberg’s early music was frequently groundbreaking, marrying the confessional lyric qualities shared with fellow SoCal troubadours such as Jackson Browne and James Taylor to sweeping and ambitious classically-styled arrangements. Case in point: his 1977 album Nether Lands, with its dreamlike storyline and lush soundscapes.
And for those of us who grew up during that time, and were still too young, innocent or naive to have been into Hendrix, Joplin or Zappa, these songs provided a perfect outlet through which to express ourselves. I received a vinyl copy of Nether Lands from a female friend in high school (the same friend who received a bright red Star Wars t-shirt from me – we saw the movie together, so give me a break!), the same friend who also gave me an LP of Bread’s On The Waters, which I also hold dear. But Nether Lands always seemed to be the greater emotional statement, proven by the fact that I can still conjure its melodies and the relative emotions in my head – and heart - on demand.
Thank you, Dan Fogelberg.