Dan Fogelberg was a successful singer/songwriter with a string of platinum-selling albums and singles in the 1970s, the early ’80s, and a long career afterward. His debut album, “Home Free,” was recorded in Nashville, in 1972.

This gifted man was born into a musical family in Peoria, IL, where his father was an established musician, teacher, and bandleader. Unlike many boys his age, he was more interested in music than sports. His first instrument was the piano. His personal musical turning point came in the early ’60s, before he’d reached his teens. A gift of an old Hawaiian guitar from his grandfather introduced him to the instrument that would soon replace the piano.

One song for which Fogelberg is best remembered is The Leader of the Band from his album The Innocent Age, released in 1981. It was written as a tribute to his father who was still alive at the time of its release. His father died one year later but not before this hit song made him a celebrity with numerous media interviews interested in him as its inspiration.

The Leader of the Band is one of Fogelberg’s most personal songs. One biographer said “it expressed something that many children have trouble articulating: a love for their father. The intimacy of the song actually broadened its appeal and it became one of his most enduring songs.”

One line in the song, “Thank you for the freedom when it came my time go,” refers to the time Dan decided to drop out of college in the middle of a semester to pursue music. Although his father was disappointed, he supported his son’s decision and told him to try it for a year.

The song’s lyrics described Fogelberg’s father in the following manner:

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 songwriter then goes on to say:
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

The Leader of the Band is a memorable song that stands on its own merits. It is not a “Christian song” but it contains a reminder for Christians of our role in the world and who we are supposed to be. Jesus said that He came to show us what our Heavenly Father was like. He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen my Father” (John 14:7-10). And he added, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). Our calling is to be the “living legacy of the Leader of the Band.”

God help us to fulfill our calling.

Jamie Jenkins