♫ Leader of the Band ♫

I never know quite why songs pop into my head, do you?  But I do know that once they get in there, they sometimes last for only a fleeting moment, but other times they stick around for days.  As a general rule, I only know a few lines of the lyrics, so my kitchen-singing, when it happens, is repetitious, to say the least.  The girls wear headphones, and since if I am singing it means I am (relatively) happy, they tolerate it.  Singing is a stretch … warbling might be a better word for it.  Anyway … I digress.  This song popped into my head yesterday and I haven’t been able to exorcise it since, so it must be tonight’s song, yes?  In sharing it with you, it invades your ears and leaves my head …

Dan Fogelberg both wrote and sang this one.  The song was written as a tribute to his father, Lawrence Fogelberg, a musician and the leader of a band, who was still alive at the time the song was released.  He would die in 1982, the year after the song’s release, but not before the song made him a celebrity with numerous media interviews interested in him as its inspiration.

The line, “Thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go,” is a reference to Fogelberg dropping out of college. He attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, but decided to leave in the middle of a semester to pursue music – not what most parents want to hear. Fogelberg’s father was disappointed, but supported his son’s decision, telling Dan to try it for a year. The music thing worked out well: Dan drove to Los Angeles, got a record deal, and became one of the top-selling solo artists of the ’70s.

Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, has performed a version of the song as a tribute to her late father.

And now, ladies and gentlemen … I give you … Dan Fogelberg …

Leader of the Band / Washington Post March
Dan Fogelberg

An only child alone and wild, a cabinet maker’s son
His hands were meant for different work
And his heart was known to none
He left his home and went his lone and solitary way
And he gave to me a gift I know I never can repay

A quiet man of music denied a simpler fate
He tried to be a soldier once, but his music wouldn’t wait
He earned his love through discipline, a thundering velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand

The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band

My brother’s lives were different for they heard another call
One went to Chicago and the other to St Paul
And I’m in Colorado when I’m not in some hotel
Living out this life I’ve chose and come to know so well

I thank you for the music and your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough
And papa, I don’t think I said I love you near enough

The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band
I am a living legacy to the leader of the band

Songwriters: Dan Fogelberg
Leader of the Band / Washington Post March lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

35 thoughts on “♫ Leader of the Band ♫

  1. This song never fails to make me get all teary. The reason? This song was SO my father. I rewrote the first verse to reflect dad’s life for my dad’s funeral, and our son, Brandon, sang it. Dad played the guitar and sang and had a band of his own from the time he was 13 — long before garage bands were in vogue. He was in the Artillery Jive Bombers in the service. His last band, which was still going strong when he died, was the Desert Varnish in Arizona. They even had their own Saturday night TV spot on the local TV. They played out in the middle of the desert where the Bureau of Land Management built them a concrete dance floor. They would get upwards of 200 people at the dances. They come with canes and walkers and leave theem all by their chairs when they got up to dace! It was so awesome. He passed away listening to9 tapes of the band. He’s been gone 20 years.

    The eldest child of five
    he had to grow up way too fast.
    An absent father’s role to fill,
    his boyhood wouldn’t last.
    His heart was meant for different work,
    guitar he learned to play,
    and he gave to me a gift I know
    I never can repay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Calen … what beautiful memories you have of your dad, and the verse you wrote for him … brought a tear to my eye. He must have been so special, and it sounds like he knew how to enjoy life and express his love of music. Thank you for sharing this with me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • He was very charismatic. He made everything magical. But true to human nature, he also was a philanderer! My mom stuck with him anyway. She actually was the stronger of the two. Interesting what you learn when you grow up!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Indeed it is … I learned things about my father after I was grown, married and had children of my own that I never would have guessed when I was living with my parents! I remember being about 4 years old and wondering why my mum was kissing with my Uncle Lucky on the sofa, so the next night at supper I happened to remember it and asked about it … with my dad sitting at the table … 😀 Out of the mouths of babes, eh?

          Liked by 1 person

            • Heck yes! And it happened again later, only in reverse, when I was about 13 or so, and my dad’s secretary, who had left for Brazil, suddenly returned. I happened to pop into his office, saw her, and thought not a thing about it, so again, the next night at supper, I said “Dad, when did Margaret come back from Brazil?” My mum went ballistic, packed her stuff and told me to pack mine, but I refused. I was staying with dad, no matter how she tried to force me.

              Thank you for sharing your poem … it was hauntingly sad, and yet expressed so well. I might have had some of the same self-doubts were it not for a couple of things … one is that my mother was very abusive, and two I had guardian angels in the form of uncles who made sure I was cared for and knew I had value. I was, in other words, lucky.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Great choice, love this one! Another of my favorite Dan Fogelberg songs is from his first album Home Free, “To the Morning”. Then there is “Same Auld Lang Syne”, a single from 1981 that I always loved…only to discover the true story behind it after his death, about a girl named Jill! The posthumous album, Love In Time, has many previously unreleased songs…”Sometimes A Song” is on it, with another interesting story behind the song. Lucie Arnaz sings…I didn’t know!?! Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

      • If memory serves me correctly, and at times it fails, it is about music that you have said that of me. Modesty should cause me to protest, but I possess a wee bit of pride that allows me to accept the compliment. That said, my encyclopedic knowledge is a limited edition of the 60’s through the 80’s and early 90’s. Do not ask me about Kanye West or others of the present era…I neither like nor listen. At times I have pondered about whether I am simply a product of my generation, lacking the ability to appreciate today’s music. Thankfully, it passes quickly as I reach for the gifted musical artist’s works of my day and get lost in a song and a memory. “Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Anderson. Thank-you!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Your memory is probably better than mine, for I cannot remember the exact times or reasons I have called you that. Like you, I know nothing of the music of this decade or the past, for I have heard just enough to know I’d like to stay back in the 50s thru maybe early 90s. Today’s music seems … angry. But then … today’s society seems angry, and music is a reflection of life, of reality, so …


  3. Songs that come to us are messages. Quite often we fill our heads with so much clutter that our guides can only get through in a song. The message of this song is for you to figure out, but it begs the question, are you a living legacy?

    Liked by 1 person

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