I stood mesmerized. We had been walking through an exhibit of musicians who have performed at Red Rocks (above), an incredible, God-made music venue near Denver, Colorado, when a film about the life and music of Dan Fogelberg drew my attention. I couldn’t step away.

It was difficult to explain to my husband all the emotions stirred by the image and voice of the singer/songwriter. He hadn’t known me when Fogelberg, John Denver, James Taylor, Carol King and Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote the soundtrack to my life. James Taylor and Carol King have been played often enough at our house that even our kids know the songs. My husband and I are both fans of Carpenter and we were at Red Rocks for her concert. (She is an amazing poet, songwriter and singer and the concert was worth the climb, but all too short.)

Denver and Fogelberg? They belong only to me.

“Annie’s Song”, “Fly Away”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Country Roads”, “The Garden Song”. I could go and on. As a girl, John Denver was my Michael Jackson, my Prince, my Backstreet Boys, my Steven Tyler. I was shy and kind of geeky. It was a good fit.

Statue of John Denver at Red Rocks

Fogelberg, on the other hand, was my heart throb. The handsome, long-haired guitarist with a voice like birdsong was perfection to this earth-shoe-wearing, peace-loving “flower child”. (Yes, I realize I’m dating myself.)

By the time Fogelberg released “Leader of the Band” in 1989, I had added cassette tapes of U2, The Police and Bon Jovi to my music collection. I was married and well into my career as a journalist. Stories were my life. Fogelberg’s song “Leader of the Band” is pure storytelling and the most iconic of his career. Written as a tribute to his father, it resonated with me because my whole life, my Dad was my “leader of the band.” The words are honest and heartfelt. They still move me to tears.

Dan Fogelberg and John Denver both died young, Fogelberg of cancer and Denver in a plane crash. But, they left their mark on me and on many other dreamers of my generation.

In honor of my own leader of the band, who passed away earlier this year, and as a gift to you, in case you’ve forgotten or never knew Fogelberg, I’m sharing this live recording of “Leader of the Band”.

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

Dan Fogelberg singing “Leader of the Band”

It’s Still The Summer of Culture

My Latest Fiction Recommendation ~ The Printed Letter Bookshop

As a writer and avid reader, I love stories centered around bookshops. Give me a tale about three women trying to save a bookshop bound for closure and I’m all in.

Katherine Reay’s novel The Printed Letter Bookshop was a joy to read, as are all her titles. The women in the novel, set in a community outside Chicago, are believable, both in their flaws and their perfection. This is an intergenerational tale, with all three women linked by their relationship to the original owner of The Printed Letter Bookshop. By the end, their ties to one another have been cemented. I won’t tell you whether they saved the bookshop, but I will say they saved one another.

I took a collection of Flannery O’Connor short stories with me on vacation because I didn’t want to get engrossed in a longer book and be tempted to stay in our bed and breakfast to read. O’Connor is one of my son’s favorite authors and I bought this volume on our visit to Literati Book Store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. O’Connor’s stories are deep yet common, hopeful yet disconcerting. I’ll go back to her from time-to-time, but I’m not ready to consume a healthy dose just yet.

So what’s up next? A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny. This is the second in her Inspector Gamache series. I read Still Life earlier this year and, while I wasn’t enthralled, I was satisfied. Friends who love this Canadian author tell me to keep going, so I’m reading her books in order of publication. This one began a three-year string of Agatha Awards for the author. Impressive! I’ll let you know how it sits with me.

And this ~ a book give-away winner!

Jennifer, a new subscriber to the blog, has won a copy of Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker. I’ve reviewed Smucker’s beautiful book here, there and everywhere. If you’d like the chance to receive a free book in the future, slip your email address into one of the SUBSCRIBE spots above and below.

Please tell us…

Whose music stops you in your tracks? Who is your Dan Fogelberg or James Taylor, the one who wrote (or still writes) the soundtrack to your life? I can’t wait to hear from you!