Leader of the Band

17 06 2012

My favorite song of all time, bar none, is Dan Fogelberg’s runaway 1981 hit “Leader of the Band.”  This is Father’s Day and it is apropos. Dad and Paul (stepfather), I love you both and thank God I have you in my life.

I heard Dan once say—June 1985, Pine Knob Music Theatre, Clarkston MI—that if he’d only been able to write one song, it would have been this one.

Dan’s father, immortalized in the song, was Lawrence Peter Fogelberg—Larry to friends.  He was “a proper musician” according to Dan and “a far more accomplished musician than I will ever be.”

He taught high school band in Peoria and Pekin, Illinois and had a profound impact on his son.  Here is his tribute:

Leader of the Band

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 brothers’ 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


I am a living legacy to the leader of the band

–Words and music by Daniel G. Fogelberg

Image Credit




2 responses

17 06 2012
LaDona's Music Studio

Yes! Amazing song – amazing musician! His music and lyrics had an uncommon depth and always moved me. I was in love with him for years…. 🙂

18 06 2012
Christian Fahey

Indeed, LaDona, he was a rare songwriter. Have loved his music as well for years. Tragedy he had to die young (56 by prostate cancer). Thanks for reading!

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