BY PETER JONES
Colorado has always been a fan of Dan Fogelberg, and the feeling was mutual.
“I fell in love with Colorado. They had beer I could drink. I could climb the mountains,” he told this reporter in a 2003 interview.
If the college dropout from Illinois had not run out of gas in Estes Park on his way to California in 1971, his career might not have climbed the same altitudes and he almost certainly would not have been welcomed into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame 36 years later.
The singer-songwriter, who died of prostate cancer in 2007 at age 56, will be formally inducted Aug. 13 at a ceremony and tribute concert at Fiddler’s Green in Greenwood Village, along with fellow inductees Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm and the studios of Nederland’s Caribou Ranch, where all of the above made music.
“It was all about the seclusion and nurturing of the creative mind,” Fogelberg said of Caribou, where the likes of John Lennon, the Beach Boys and Elton John also recorded. “It was so plush. I mean, anything you wanted 24 hours a day—and I mean anything—I’m not going to elaborate.”
Whatever the influences, creative energy flourished at the infamous mountain retreat founded in 1971 by James Guercio, best known as producer for the band Chicago, before the legendary studios were destroyed by a fire in 1985.
Walsh, whose experiences in Colorado influenced his own classic “Rocky Mountain Way,” also produced Souvenirs, Fogelberg’s 1974 breakthrough album.
Commercial radio may have typecast Fogelberg in romantic hyperbole and flugelhorns, but there was always much more to him than Birkenstocks, beards and sensitivity.
“That’s always been radio and the press’s doing,” he said. “It certainly doesn’t parallel my career. The big hits that I had were real romantic acoustic-type music. But if you look at the rest of the music I’ve done, I’ve gone all over the place.”
Over the years, Fogelberg experimented with bluegrass, world music and jazz to name just a few of his destinations. Twin Sons of Different Mothers, his collaboration with jazz-pop flutist Tim Weisberg, was a Top 10 hit in 1978.
“A lot of the times,” he said, “the biggest response I get, especially from guys who are kind of dragged to these shows by their old ladies is ‘I had no idea these guys played rock and roll.’ Some of the women are put off. Some of them expect me to be Manilow or Air Supply or something, and we’re up there rocking and playing blues.”
Born in Peoria, Ill. in 1951, Fogelberg learned to play guitar when he was 11. At 13, he was writing his own material. As a college student, he was discovered by industry hotshot Irving Azoff, who sent him on his fateful trip to California by way of Colorado.
After his first country-tinged album tanked, Azoff made the odd choice of hiring heavy-guitar ace Walsh to produce Souvenirs, which would go double platinum.
A decade of hits—“Longer,” “Same Auld Lang Syne” and “Leader of the Band”—would cement Fogelberg’s sensitive reputation. Ironically, it was the up-tempo “Language of Love,” a skeptical comment on lousy communication, that the singer-songwriter says sums up his own feelings.
“That’s probably more me than ‘Longer,’” he said. “I’ve been in and out of several marriages and I don’t have a particularly rosy or romantic, distorted view of romantic relationships.”
“Longer,” Fogelberg’s signature song of eternal love, was written for wife No. 1.
Two marriages later, he pleaded not guilty to being a hopeless romantic.
“Hopeful, yes,” he said with a laugh. “Very pragmatic.”
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