1983 Radio Interview

A sprawling snow-bound ranch high in the Colorado Rockies. At this time of year, it's accessible only by snowmobile or four wheel drive. The winter light has long faded, and inside the house the wife is reading poetry and the gentleman rancher is seated before a roaring fire. Legs folded, guitar in hand, softly strumming. In this remotest of regions, in a place not found on any map, a song is being born. (clip from "Song from Half Mountain" plays). Who knows how many aspiring writers are composing lines high above the pines? But this man is different. Once every few months, he leaves his mountain for Hollywood, where he'll make a record that'll be heard by millions, or for the concert trail, where he'll sing his songs for untold thousands. He can control himself, he can control his environment, but he can't control the creativity raging within.

Dan Fogelberg: It's an energy that comes through me and really takes hold of me - the creative urge, the creative instinct. It's like going into a deep trance state. I don't know, I always, you know, jokingly call it "the muse," but I believe that, too. There's this spirit floating around that every now and then crystallizes and passes through me and comes into being as art. It's about the closest I can get to it. I mean, you can go into deep philosophical raps about this all night.

Jerry Bishop: Dan Fogelberg, not exactly what you'd call your typical raving pop star. Audiences don't scream at his every gyration, fans don't follow his every fleeting moment, and he's got about as much flash as the hip mountaineer he really is. And yet Dan's fans are firm in their dedication and legion in their number. He's a communicator, and it's been said that his enormous popularity rests with the fact that when people listen to his music, they feel they know him. But maybe the real truth is simply that when people listen to Dan Fogelberg, they know themselves.

DF: Well, that's an interesting idea. That's an interesting idea. Yeah, I think I put them in touch with something that is there but they can't verbalize. I think that's what an artist is, that's what a communicator is. Especially a poet, someone who can say that for them, you know. It's a voice. Obviously these people are relating to it because they've experienced it. And it makes it a little easier for them to know that someone else has experienced it. I've said this before to people. Ultimately it comes down to one person writing it and one person hearing it. There is no "masses." That's not real. It's one on one always, you know. It's me writing it and one other person experiencing it.

("Part of the Plan" plays)

JB: I'm Jerry Bishop, and at the heart of our plan this time on "Spotlight Special" is Dan Fogelberg. Dan guards his privacy the way a front line guards their quarterback, but in this rare radio interview, he lets down all his defenses. He'll tell us about his early days in Peoria and why he traded painting for music. He'll reveal why he leads two lives, as a family man in Colorado and a show biz insider in Hollywood. He'll tell us not just the "how" but also the "why" behind his songs. Dan's music is like an Oriental tapestry, elegantly simple from a distance, richly complex the closer you get to it, just like the man himself. We'll start weaving the tapestry life in music next on "Spotlight Special."

JB: Dan Fogelberg just may be the Greta Garbo of rock. In an era in which celebrities will do anything to make the cover of People, Dan would rather be alone. You can count the number of radio interviews he's done on one hand, and say some, maybe even on one finger. Why does Dan guard his privacy so zealously?
DF:  Well, again I think I put so much of myself into the music and people get so much of me in that, that I don't really owe them anything else. And I really don't find myself that fascinating, to be honest with you. I enjoy talking to people about other things than myself, you know. I mean it just isn't that fascinating to tell people who I am. I think I've done that musically, to a point. And also it's obvious I want to preserve my privacy and my freedom to create, you know. A lot of it, they go hand in hand, if I don't have that privacy, I can't make these songs. They go hand in hand.

("Times Like These" plays)

JB: Even though Dan Fogelberg writes at home, sometimes his songs hit too close to home, and that can prove embarrassing. It goes back to his desire for privacy. Dan prefers to be heard and not seen.
DF:  I'm finding myself more the observer and trying to make comment outside of myself more. Also, I think as I've gone on, I'm not willing to reveal as much of that, you know. It gets to a point where you can't really be philosophical, you start getting specific about your love life, and that's not fair to my wife, you know.  If I start writing the day to day trials of marriage into a song and being specific about it, that really isn't fair to her. And she's made that quite plain to me. And she was right, I really shouldn't be telling people this, you know. It's really none of their business.

("Heart Hotels" plays)

DF: I can write you a love song in fifteen minutes if you want one, you know. And it'll be good, you'll like it, it'll touch you some way. Maybe only one line, but something in it will touch you. I know how to do that very well.
JB: Now don't get the idea that Dan's mechanical when it comes to love songs. Far from it. Instead, Dan wants to broaden the barriers of romance by writing about the mechanics of love.

DF: Well, basically, the mechanics of love are the day to day inner workings that cause us to create the conflicts we do or create something to succeed or fail, you know. I'm not interested in saying, "My love ran away, I feel sad." I want to figure out why she ran away and why I feel sad, you know. It's psychoanalysis, basically, you know, on record. And it's helped me a lot over the last ten years of my career, you know. There's actually been things which I've written that I didn't understand until years later. And then it became clear, when I matured to that statement I understood it, you know. Maybe that's a certain form of clairvoyance, I don't know. I think there's, you know, time, perhaps, is irrelevant in the creative spirit. It ceases to exist so you can actually pull something out of the future as well as out of the past and bring to the present, and it may exist in those places until you get there again. I believe that.

("Make Love Stay" plays)

JB: If you've ever wondered why Dan Fogelberg is so adept at painting pictures with words, there's an excellent reason. We'll illustrate it for you next on "Spotlight Special."

JB: Peoria. It rhymes with "euphoria." Originally a French fur trading post, Peoria is Illinois' third largest city and birthplace of the man who would one day be honored on "Spotlight Special," Dan Fogelberg. Dan had a typical midwestern childhood, up until the day he discovered he possessed powers beyond those of mortal kids, like writing and singing and drawing. It was a day Dan remembers well.
DF:  I think it was March 15th, 1969. That was the night. When did I have it? I don't know. I guess in college was when I took it seriously. Before that I had done it just pretty much for fun, you know. I'd been in bands in high school and had written songs as a folkie out in the bluffs of the Illinois River, a wonderful period of time in my life. But I was again more serious about being an actor or about being a painter then. I did a lot of theater in high school and was real good at it, I really loved it dearly. And painting I've done since I was a child. And I went to college with those in mind. But with the new found freedom of living away from home and making my own hours, et cetera, I found myself hanging out in coffeehouses more with other musicians. It was a very exciting time then because everyone was picking up a guitar and writing songs, and I had a pretty good jump on them at that point. So I got a lot of very positive feedback playing these places, became, you know, a little celebrity on campus at that point and around the state of Illinois. And the music business was getting more and more, as I said, lucrative, and it just looked like the best thing to do. It kind of took over. I kind of let my painting go, which I really hated to do, and I still wish I hadn't.

("Leader of the Band" plays)

JB: Dan wrote that song as a tribute to his father shortly before he died. But the irony is that today in Hollywood, the leader of practically every band is Irving Azoff. Currently president of MCA Records, Irving managed the careers of Steely Dan, The Eagles, Boz Scaggs, and Dan Fogelberg. Irving and Dan have been together literally since the beginning of both their careers, although it wasn't exactly love at first sight.
DF: I mean, he was this hot-shot promoter in Champaign, and I was this radical hippie. I hated what he stood for. I fought against what he stood for. But eventually what we both stood for was art and music and ambition. Now I use that word, which maybe I shouldn't. But we both obviously had to be very ambitious people to do what we did, to pull up our stakes and believe in one another so much that we could come out here from nothing and start up and do so well, you know. He heard me play one night in a bar. Good Lord, I mean, nobody heard it but him. They got an upright piano out there, and I took my acoustic guitar, and it was just insane. It was like the place was being torn apart while we were in there. I mean, literally, people were breaking glasses and fights are going on, right, and I'm up here. But Irving sat there and never took his eyes away and never took his ears away. And after that night, we've been together ever since.

("Illinois" plays)

DF:  Irving and I went to watch James Taylor in concert, and his band was The Section. And they got to "Fire and Rain," and Russell got that great big tom- tom fill, that signature Russ Kunkel fill, and it just knocked me off my seat when I heard him, and I just turned to Irving and said, "That's the guy, I've just got to work with him."
JB:Luckily for Dan Fogelberg, Irving Azoff can pull more strings than Jim Henson and the Muppets combined. Not only did Russ Kunkel join his band, but Dan could get his hands on the hands of virtually any musician he wanted. He even recorded an album with a man whose motto is, "If you've got it, flaut it." Flute player Tim Weisberg, who learned just how powerful gold can be. Tim Weisberg: I remember Dan initially didn't want to sing on the album. He's a very fine guitar player, and I think that album really illustrated it. But people focus on his voice and his lyrics because they're so stunning, and so initially, he didn't want to do any vocalizing. And I love his voice, and I love playing my flute with his voice, and so I consequently said, "Gee, you've got to sing some things, I mean, let's try it," and when the album did as well as it did, it was really gratifying to me because when you get a Top 40 hit like "Power of Gold" was, you move into a whole other area of exposure. And I've spent most of my career with people saying that there's a very limited audience for the kind of music that I play with my group. Yet over a million people went out, and I'm sure the vast majority drawn by hearing "Power of Gold," and got an album that was primarily instrumental . And if people really disliked that kind of music, they would have taken a lot of the records back, and they didn't.

("Power of Gold" plays)

JB:As we know, all that glitters isn't gold or even platinum. Not only that, but Dan Fogelberg has the power to be bold, as we'll discover next on "Spotlight Special."

JB: Back in the Sixties and Seventies, singer-songwriters went to great lengths to convince their audiences they were just like them. They weren't, of course, or else the audience would have been on stage while the performer watched the show. But today, in the Eighties, the myth still exists, and it's one that Dan Fogelberg is desperate to explode. I don't know if he looks back, but he's got everything he needs. And Dan doesn't blink an eye when he says...
DF: I am an artist. There may be people who disagree with that, I'm sure there's a lot of critics that do disagree with that. But I am first and foremost an artist. I take it very seriously. And that's why I'm here, I have that sensibility. I mean, I was a painter and a photographer, and an actor before I was a musician. And I still do those, and I will eventually end up doing those. So it's all just one means of expression compared to another. I'll always be an artist whether it's in the music business or not. That's just one mode, and it was a very lucrative mode. I'm not a fool, you know. I could've come out of the University of Illinois with a degree in painting and gone and painted portraits, you know, or something or whatever for the rest of my life. Houses probably, yeah.

("The Last to Know" plays)

JB: Often, a wife is the last to know when her husband has taken a mistress. And in a sense, an artist like Dan Fogelberg does indeed have a mistress. It's not flesh and blood, but rather a guitar, a pen, and a piece of paper.
DF:  My wife knows that she'll never be able to top this urge in me to create, and that's got to be terribly frustrating for her. She knows she can never be number one in my life, and I feel terrible about that. But it's real, and she knows it's real. She's enough of an artist herself to understand it and to have lived with it. But she's been amazing to allow me that freedom and to stay out of my way and to know that if she ever did, you know, really inhibit my creativity, that would probably be the one thing that could break us up. I'd die without it. I wouldn't want to live without it.

("Same Old Lang Syne" plays)

DF:  I'll never do anything like it again. It about killed me to do it.
JB: No, Dan Fogelberg, isn't talking about horseback riding or cross-country skiing, his two favorite hobbies, which we'll discuss later. He's talking about making a record. Well, it wasn't just any record. It was a concept album, a two-record song cycle called The Innocent Age. But for Dan, it represented not only the loss of innocence but nearly the loss of Dan himself.

DF: Yeah, I knew there were problems, but I wouldn't confront them. I just let them sizzle inside me for way too long. And I must have been real close to a nervous breakdown. I may have experienced a nervous breakdown, I don't know. I don't know how to define a nervous breakdown. I did get to the point with the record at one point where if I didn't go into psychoanalysis, I might have killed myself. That's a real dangerous point to live at, even for five minutes. I managed to get through it myself. Actually, that was kind of a catharsis, I never did use an analyst on it. But just saying, "OK, I'm going home and I'm going to do this, I'm going to spill all this to somebody and find out what the hell is going on with myself and get this out." I knew it was a matter of getting all this stuff that was inside of me out, and I wasn't able to do it with the record. It was making it worse. I was so dedicated to this project that it was ruining my life. And eventually I stopped, and the moment I did that, things got better, and I came through it fine.

("The Innocent Age" plays)

DF:  He wonders, "Is it worth it?" I mean, you're creating good stuff, but is it worth your life? How much are you willing to sacrifice to that art? You know, I used to think everything, and that may be what got me into trouble.

("Hard to Say" plays)

JB: It's easy to say what Dan Fogelberg is doing now. He's finishing up a new album, titled Windows and Walls. And with this new record, Dan is reaching out even further to his audience.
DF: I'm asking them to give a little to me on this one. I've given a lot to them, especially on The Innocent Age. I gave a lot of myself. This one I'm asking a bit more of the listener in terms of giving up their preconceived notions of what I am and what I do. I'm asking people to look at things with me now instead of at me, you know. To see things beside me, not through me. I'm asking them to relate to me more as a human being now, instead of as an artist. I want us to communicate on a different level, and I don't know, I hope people will enjoy the ride, that they'll come along with me. If not, it's not going to inhibit me from doing what I want to do. I'm still going to go this same path that's there for me. I just hope they'll come along and realize that I'm growing and changing. And I'm not doing it for the effect of growing and changing, I'm doing it because I'm growing and changing.

JB:The place where Dan Fogelberg does most of his growing and changing is Colorado. We'll hear all about that next on "Spotlight Special."

JB: Here's a word association test. When I say Colorado, what pops into your mind? The Rockies? Skiing? Beer? John Denver? Well, now you can add Dan Fogelberg to that list. His quest for creativity is rivaled only by his desire for privacy. And both have found a home on the range surrounding his Rocky Mountain-high ranch.
DF: Colorado, I just fell in love with these mountains. A lot of it's my Scandinavian heritage. I just felt very much at home there. I had been living in the south up to then, in Nashville, and that's a beautiful place to live, too. I really enjoyed it there. But once I started hanging out in Colorado, I just found myself being more and more drawn to it, that lifestyle and that isolation. I love to have animals around basically because I live in a beautiful place and it's the best way to get around, and it's fun to play cowboy, you know. It's fun to go out in the mountains for three days and come back in, you know, smelling horrible, with three days beard growth, you know, and smoke ashes all over your face, and just do that. I really get off on that. I enjoy that greatly.

("Run for the Roses" plays)

JB: You'd figure that once Dan Fogelberg got a taste of the high country, he'd never want to leave. But leave he must, to make records. First he writes a song subjectively, then produces himself objectively. That means he leads two lives in the studio, and sometimes he has to object to a subject.
DF:  When I'm working in the studio, it's not the same thing as working at home writing. It's Mr. Professional Musician Producer here. And so, I have to keep a lid on it. I can't let it get emotional. I've got to keep it cool and calm in the studio, because if you start getting crazy, you're going to lose time. And time is money, as we all well know. So basically if my performance isn't up to par, like today, then I have to approach it as a producer, and say, "OK, how do I get the good performance from the artist?" Being one and the same, it's a little difficult. Maybe it's saying to myself, "Maybe take some time off, maybe try it tomorrow. If you're not getting anywhere, don't push it, don't, you know, don't make yourself nuts because of this. There's another day to do it." So, you know, I just don't let it get me nuts anymore. I've done it enough. I don't smoke when I live at home. You notice I've been chain smoking. No, when I'm skiing and stuff, I just don't have the urge.

("Nether Lands" plays)

JB: Dan Fogelberg grows up, next on "Spotlight Special."

DF:  Yeah, you've got to have a real strong center of drive.
JB: Fortunately, Dan Fogelberg also has a real strong center of gravity. After all, there are an infinite number of ways to achieve success, but Dan likes his way best.

DF:  My goal always has been, and it's the way we've run my career, is that I wanted total control, I wanted to do it my way, take my own time and let the world come to me. And it was bucking all the odds at the time, and it still is. But we've pulled it off. We were willing to wait and believe in what we could do and never waver from that. I want to make sure this is done correctly so that I feel comfortable about it, whether I succeed or not, you know. Success ultimately comes from yourself, not from anything you can gain materialistically. That stuff just doesn't mean that much. You've got to be satisfied with your art and what you've done, with anybody's life, you know. You've got to be happy with what you do.

("Missing You" plays)

DF:  I've kind of started to accept adulthood, and I'm enjoying it. That's the whole key to it, is accepting it, you know. It's not trying to be that child anymore, it's just going to make you crazy. You're not that person anymore. You've got to take the responsibilities now for your family, for your home, for being an adult. You just put away childish things, and I think I'm doing it pretty successfully. I'm a lot happier now than I was two or three years ago, now that I've worked this out and accepted it, you know. I want to be an adult. It's just that I've worked it out on record, in public, which is a little unusual. And perhaps, you know, felt it too deeply, maybe made too much out of it, but I couldn't help it. It was important, it moved me, it consumed me. I had to come to grips with it. And now that I have, I feel a lot better.

("Longer" plays)

JB: We began this edition of "Spotlight Special" with the observation that Dan Fogelberg is a man in complete control of his music, of his career, of his environment. But Dan has taught us a valuable lesson, that no matter how much control you think you have, you can also lose control. Dan got close, maybe too close, to losing it all, but by living his life in concert with his music, he's shown us the true meaning of harmony. Let's let Dan Fogelberg himself give us the last word.

DF:  I don't let music affect me adversely anymore. Music is probably the most positive thing I have in my life.

JB: The Dan Fogelberg "Spotlight Special" was produced by ABC Watermark...