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Leader of the Band

Leader of the Band

Hello, everyone.

Thirty years ago, Dan Fogelberg had a smash hit with a song titled “Leader of the Band.” It was written by Dan himself and was copyright around 1982. Here are the lyrics.

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 —

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 the living legacy
To the leader of the band.

Just in case anyone needs to be told, Dan Fogelberg wrote this song about his dad.

I sat at the computer and cried as I listened to Dan’s song on YouTube. And I felt like I had found a buried treasure as I downloaded the videos to my hard drive. All of the comments on both video pages said essentially the same thing: This song is possibly the greatest tribute song to a dad that was ever written.

I never knew my dad. He walked out on my mother when he found out that she was pregnant with me. My grandparents raised me, and as I said in my comment on one of the video pages, I saw so much of my Grandpa in Dan Fogelberg’s lyrics.

I have heard of dads who would play catch with their sons in the back yard after supper. Or who would take their boys fishing or hunting. Or who worked in the Boy Scouts with them. Or who would work with their sons building an electric train layout. I never had any of that.

But rather, I have these memories. I remember my Grandpa, who was a coal miner, taking me with him when he went to Local and my playing on the floor while the men discussed union business. I remember Grandpa taking me with him to the picture show and my sitting on his lap, trying to be as quiet as I could so I would not disturb his enjoying the movie. I remember seeing him working on his ledger as the treasurer of the Local, or taking a book out of his bookcase, sitting down in his rocker, and opening the book and reading it. I remember seeing him sitting in his rocker in front of his radio, reading his newspaper. But most of all, I remember sitting on his lap in front of the radio, listening to the musical programs that were broadcast on WHO in Des Moines on Monday evenings.

Grandpa laid a hand on me only twice that I can recall, and I deserved it both times. The one that stands out in my mind was when I was so mean to our little brown dog Snooper. I used to hold Snooper’s snout shut and pull his ear. One time Grandpa got me down on the floor and grabbed hold of my nose and began to pull my ear. I yelled for him to stop, but he said that he wouldn’t stop until I knew and understood how that poor little dog felt. Needless to say, I never mistreated Snooper ever again. And needless to say, little Snooper made up to me again when I began treating him better.

My Grandpa attended the Evangelical United Brethren Church in my hometown. But I cannot recall any time that he ever discussed religion. He never talked about his faith; he merely lived it. His faith radiated from him in how he treated people and how he raised me. He could get along with anyone and everyone. I cannot recall one unkind word that he ever spoke about anyone, and I cannot recall anyone who could not get along with him.

My Grandpa was killed all too soon in my life. Of all my cousins, only my cousin Jimmy and I have any kind of memories of him. But I am the kind of man that I am today because of him. Dan Fogelberg said it so well in his song: “ My life has been a poor attempt / To imitate the man.” And, like Dan, I am a living legacy of the man who taught me through his example how to be a real man.

Jesus Christ, the long-haired, bearded delusionary who believed that he was the “Son of God,” had some very serious problems with the concept of fathers. In Matthew 10:37 he said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” NKJV

And in Luke 14:26, he said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.“ NKJV

And, most disgusting of all, in Matthew 23:9, he said, “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” NKJV

HATE our parents? Not acknowledge the man who begot us? I’m sorry, but such ideas are totally preposterous! It is natural for us to love and revere our parents. Little girls want to be like their mothers, and little boys revere their dads and want to be just like them. That is simply the way that the Supreme God created us, and any ideas to the contrary simply are not from him.

As I said earlier, my real father walked out on my mother when he found out that she was pregnant with me. I did have a step-father and step-brothers. My grandfather got along fine with him, but my grandmother had an irrational hatred of him. After Grandpa was killed, my grandmother worked night and day, 24-7-365, to poison me against him. When she eventually got sick with stomach cancer and I had to go live with him and my mother, there was no way that I could ever connect with him as a son. His hatred of me was as deep as her hatred of him.

But I did get some idea of what a father’s love was from one of my uncles whom I used to visit often in my younger days. And to a degree, I can see him in Fogelberg’s song.

In the beginning, I made the comment that Fogelberg’s song was possibly the greatest tribute song to a dad that was ever written. I would like to change that; it is ONE of the greatest tribute songs. John McDermott, when he sang with the Three Irish Tenors 15-20 years ago, sang a song titled “The Old Man” that I would call the equal of Fogelberg’s song. It too is a hymn of praise to a dad.

In conclusion, I would say that I envy everyone who has and had a loving dad, a father who was and is worthy of being looked up to and loved. I never had that. But I did have a grandfather and uncle who filled those roles for me, and for these two dear men, I am most thankful.

Have yourselves a good day tomorrow.




March 3, 2013 - Posted by | Miscellaneous, Uncategorized | ,

1 Comment »

  1. That is one of my favorite songs of all time. Other than the part about being a cabinet-maker’s son, it is a perfect description of my dad. It has reminded me of him since the very first time I heard it. My dad was also a quiet, gentle man. He was in a band when he was younger and though he had another occupation, he continued to play probably up until he went in the nursing home.

    Comment by lostinhoosierville | March 21, 2013 | Reply

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