Minstrel Mondays #5

Across the vein of night
There cuts a path of searing light,
Burning like a beacon
At the edges of our sights.
At the point of total darkness
And the light’s divine divide,
We can let our shadow stretch (Correction: A soul can let its shadow stretch)
And land on either side. Either side.

Balanced on the precipice,
The moment must reveal,
Naked in the face of time,
Our race within the wheel.
We hang beneath the heavens
And we hover over Hell,
Our hearts become the instruments
We learn to play so well.

So, wealthy the Spirit
That knows it’s own plight.
Stealthy the hunter
Who slays his own fright.
Blessed the traveler
Who journeys the length of the light.

That’s all of Nexus that I can remember without re-listening to it or looking up the lyrics.

And here’s the rest of it after looking up the lyrics:

Outside the pull of gravity
Beyond the spectral veil
Within our careful reasoning
We search to no avail
For the constant in the chaos
For the fulcrum in the void
Following a destiny
Our steps cannot avoid

Across the vein of night
There cuts a path of searing light
Burning like a beacon
On the edges of our sight
At the point of total darkness
And the lights divine divide
A soul can let its shadow
Stretch and land on either side

Wealthy the spirit
That knows its own flight
Stealthy the hunter
Who slays his own fright
Blessed the traveler
Who journeys the length of the light

In a spiral never-ending
Are we drawn towards the source
Spinning at the mercy
Of an unrelenting force
So we stare into the emptiness
And fall beneath the weight
Circling the Nexus in a
Fevered dance with fate —

Wealthy the spirit
That knows its own flight
Stealthy the hunter
Who slays his own fright
Blessed the traveler
Who journeys the length of the light.

Just delightful imagery in this song. It’s been a while, otherwise, I would have been able to remember the whole thing. My favorite thing about some of Dan’s older songs is that the further you go back, the more it’s written like poetry. Later, you get story songs and message songs, but my favorite stuff is generally the poetic stuff. Although, I have to say, I’ve memorized The Outlaw before, too. I can’t sign it though because Dan sings it SO fast. Great story song, though. For now, here’s Nexus:

The song starts with a full minute and 20 seconds of frantic but euphonous guitar, setting the background for when he sings over the same melody throughout the rest of the song. This song is a tongue twister, not just because of the clever wording but because it’s sung so quickly. Not that Dan makes it seem hard, the words just slip off his tongue. Having sung along to it about a billion times, I know how hard it is to keep up. There aren’t any long, drawn out words that give you a chance to remember what’s coming up next.

Dan kind of fetishized Native Americans a bit, and that influence shows up toward the end of the of the song. Before the final verse and chorus, some kind of Native American chanting underplays Dan’s singing and drums accompany the guitar. It’s got a nice effect, adds dimension to what would otherwise be only guitar. One of Dan’s strengths was composition, and the reason his songs don’t get boring to listen to is because he had an instinct for when a perfectly good melody needed to be switched up to enhance the lyrics, or just the listening experience. This is one of my favorite songs.

Minstrel Mondays #4

Haha, this is awesome. Pandora is playing Promises Made by Dan Fogelberg right now, as I’m getting ready to write this blog post. Confession: my job pays for a Pandora account for walk-on/off music during shows, and I can’t afford a paid account, so I have my own station. I call it 70s Hybrid because people kept deleting it when it was just called Dan Fogelberg. 70s Hybrid is more accurate, anyway. I do listen to music other than Dan Fogelberg, but we’re not going to get into that right now.

The point of the confession is to let you know that when I’m at work and shows are happening, I still need to listen to music, so I just go on YouTube and find a Dan Fogelberg playlists. It’s basically just background music, and I realize how long it’s been since I’ve listened to a particular song when I’ve forgotten most of the lyrics. There’s one song, though, that has such a great opening verse and it keeps catching my ear:

Dawn, like an angel.
Alights on the step.
Muting the morning she heralds.
Dew on the grass,
Like the tears the night wept,
Gone long before,
The day wears old.

The music is pretty simple, mostly guitar, I think plus a violin or two. The instruments are played so subtly that any time Dan pauses in his singing, for a moment, it seems as though the music has stopped too, although it hasn’t, it smoothly carries on without him. It’s sort of like the euphony of a peaceful mind resting in between thoughts.

This has never been one of my favorite songs, I always found it boring when I was a kid. Also, there’s a lot of nostalgia in this song, which is not an emotion that I’ve ever been super connected to because my childhood was nonexistent. Still, the imagery in the song, especially in the first verse is pretty great. I love the personification of dawn and the night, and the music is pretty if intentionally understated.

I want to post a link to the video but I have my YouTube on autoplay and The Reach came on after I re-listened to The Sand and the Foam so that I could write about it, so now I have to finish listening to The Reach. I think I already wrote about it. It’s my current favorite of his songs. If I haven’t, I will. Okay, it’s over. Here you go:

Minstrel Mondays #3

My showrunner intern is from Illinois and I was eating my dinner the other night as she sat the room, and overheard her talking to a comedian about Illinois. The comedian mentioned that Richard Pryor is from Peoria. I almost shouted out, “So is Dan Fogelberg!” but I showed some self-control.

Haha, just kidding. I just remembered that I was in the corner and nobody was paying attention to me and that shouting out a random Dan Fogelberg fact would drag me into a conversation. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to share a Dan fact. If I know, you should know. That’s why we do Minstrel Mondays.

I think that Peoria puts on a memorial every year for him, too, although I’m not sure, and I’m not going to Google it.

Have a good night.

(Yes, the depression is still strangling me, thanks for asking. And please don’t ask me anything else. And please stop messaging me on Facebook about work-related things…!)

Minstrel Monday #2

I woke up one morning with the lyrics, “Death is there to keep us honest / And constantly remind us we are free.” playing on a loop in my head. This was about 15 years ago. I immediately asked my mom what song/album that was from. She promptly answered, “Ghosts from The Innocent Age”.

I didn’t believe her because at that point The Innocent Age was one of my least favorite albums and I didn’t think I’d heard any song on that album enough to have the lyrics from it running through my head, it had probably been a year since I’d listened to any song on it. But she was right, of course, and for a while, that was my favorite song.

The song starts with a ghostly piano, and then Dan comes in his, voice soft and breathy:

Sometimes in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath and yet untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Along the walls; in shadowed rafters
Moving like a thought through haunted atmospheres
Muted cries and echoed laughter
Banished dreams that never sank in sleep

Then we get the same instrumental that the song started out with. The repeating melody is haunting, and the lyrics create murky, creepy images that build. Then we go on with:

Lost in love and found in reason
Questions that the mind can find no answers for
Ghostly eyes conspire treason
As they gather just outside the door

Dan’s voice gets stronger and louder as we move with the lyrics through the same haunting melody. After Dan sings, “door”, we get our first non-piano, and it’s a drum, and then continue on with the same melody:

And every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery

Another drum and then:

Death is there
To keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

The drumming plays over the melody until we hit “freeeeeeeeee”, and Dan elongates the word, and adds oomph to his voice and we hit the drums some more and now an electric guitar comes in as back up but we lose the piano. And now it’s only the guitar with a drum keeping the beat for:

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days that we’ve left behind
Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of dreams that we left behind

At some point, a soft chorus of ghosts come in with the “oohs” to back Dan up as his voice builds on the second “behind” lead into a guitar solo, still with the drums back it up. After the guitar solo fades out, we abruptly move back to the piano melody that played for the first part of the song. We go back to the original lyrics, too:

Sometimes, in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath and yet, untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Then we drum guitar (losing the piano again) into:

And every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery
Death is there to keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

Switch from piano to guitar for:

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days that we’ve left behind

Ghostly chorus jumps in again, softly.

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of dreams that we left behind

Another guitar solo and back into the opening melody, ending with a crescendo of piano and drums backed up with more ghostly “aahs”.

I’m the first to say that I’m not a musical person at all, I haven’t studied it, I don’t know the terms or the chords, I just like it. I love this song for the lyrics and imagery and I find the composition evocative and beautiful. I never really analyzed the song before, so I didn’t even notice before that we switch from piano to guitar or that he was backed up with the ghost chorus, even. I just liked the song.

My favorite part was and still is the acknowledgment that our own limited time on this earth sets us free from societal conventions. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, particularly in regard to writing. I have such terrible social anxiety. As I write this, I’m flashing back and internally shuddering at an awkward exchange I had with someone last night that makes me think that he for sure hates me now. It’s stupid to think that, and I’m 98% sure he doesn’t, but that ass ache of constantly fearing losing someone else’s good opinion of me is pretty debilitating.

I like the theme of this song because of that struggle and because more and more lately, I just have to let myself be hatable. Not that I AM hatable, most people seem to really like me for some reason, but I try to let go of that white-knuckled NEED to be liked. I have no control over how anyone else feels about me. I could throw my best personality at everyone I meet and still have them hate me. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve definitely had people see the worst parts of myself and had them love me anyway.

But I constantly remind myself that my life, in this form, at least, is finite, and it really does help me to let go of some of that anxiety. I wouldn’t say that this song created my current rebellion against the idea that I need to be liked by everyone, all the time,  but it definitely has let me know that I’m not the only one who has struggled with the same societal boundaries and limitations.

Minstrel Monday #1

The reason why I know too much about Dan Fogelberg is because my mother was convinced that he was her soul mate. I grew up thinking that he was going to be my dad someday, so learned as much as I could about him (mostly from my mom) as a kid could without an internet (Wasn’t invented yet. I know, I’m old.).

I have a terrible memory for melodies and songs but I can sing along with about 90% of his songs, and a few of my favorites I can sing at least partly from memory. He’s rarely an option at karaoke, though, except for his bigger hits like Longer, Ald Lang Syne, Leader of the Band, Power of Gold, Run for the Roses.

I like Longer and I loved Leader of the Band before I heard it about a zillion times. Power of Gold still hits me with its gorgeous composition and is as emotionally manipulative as any classic Queen anthem. I didn’t like Run for the Roses when I was a kid, although I have more and more of an appreciation of it as I age.

My current favorite Dan song (it changes every few years or so) is The Reach from the album, The Innocent Age. The Innocent Age is currently my favorite album, as it consistently has, song for song, the prettiest compositions and the most vivid imagery of any of his albums. There are a couple of songs on The Innocent Age that I don’t like, but Ghost, Nexus, and In the Passage are all the best in lyrical poetry. And Hard to Say is just a straight-up awesome WTF-is-love ballad.

A few years ago, I had my heart broken pretty severely and I had to choose a new favorite song. It couldn’t be a love song, and I didn’t really want it to be a bitter song, either. I wanted something nice to focus on. That left out Tucson, Arizona (Gazette), even though it’s not a love song. It also left out Sutter’s Mill, another clever and kind of funny, but ultimately depressing song.

The Reach is about generations of sailors and their relationships with seasons and the ocean. The lyrics are haunting, and the composition still makes my heart ache and stomach clench at certain parts. But don’t take my word for it — now that you have a fully biased opinion in your ear, listen for yourself: