Danny boy attracted a following early on in life
“Love when you can, cry when you have to, be what you must, that’s a part of the plan. Await your arrival with simple survival, and one we’ll all understand. . . .” “Part of the Plan,” Dan Fogelberg
I was 9 when my family moved 30 miles south down the Illinois River from the small town of Lacon to Peoria. One of my new classmates at Glen Oak Primary School would one day be a nationally known pop star.
Dan Fogelberg, 56, died too young Sunday at his home in Maine after a three-year battle with prostate cancer.
Danny, as those of us in fourth grade at the old school on Peoria’s East Bluff, wasn’t my best friend. He was part of a circle of kids that included my two best friends, John Mabee and Gary Whitaker. It would be surprising if any of them remember me. Peoria was the first of eight moves my family would make between the time from fourth to ninth grade. I only made long-time friends at Lacon, and in Chillicothe, where I graduated from high school.
It was soon apparent Danny was something special. During music class, we would try to talk him into playing the piano, if the teacher said it was OK. How many fourth-graders play the piano so well that their friends, including boys who were more interested in baseball and basketball, practically begged for some music? Sometimes he would oblige. Usually, he’d politely refuse, saying he’d rather not. Kind of embarrassing for a fourth-grader.
Everyone liked Danny and he responded in kind. Even toward the shy, new kid from the hick town.
I don’t recall if Danny was with us when we got into trouble for playing basketball after school in the Glen Oak gym, but I suspect he was there. A friend told us he had permission for us to use the gym. We were so excited that it never occurred to us to, I don’t know, maybe check with a teacher.
When the janitor found us, he promptly ordered us out. Small-town kid that I was, I piped up, “Terry said it was OK.”
The janitor, who luckily did not turn us in to the principal, made it clear, loudly, that he didn’t know or care who Terry was. Get out of the gym!
I remember just 11 or 12 years later, sitting with my wife in the living room of our apartment outside of Metamora and hearing “Part of the Plan,” on the radio. It was the first time -- but not the last -- that I told someone, “Hey, I went to school with that guy.”
A few weeks later, Dan was on an ABC TV show that, I think, was on at 10:30 p.m. Fridays called, “In Concert.” It was unusual for rock acts to be on TV those days, except on American Bandstand. I remember how I wished Alice Cooper -- Who? -- would hurry up and finish his set so Dan could sing.
Family, children, life -- I never forgot Dan, but I never tried to get in touch. He was too famous, I thought. I tried to buy all his albums (pre-CD history), but soon gave up. Money was tight and was spent on diapers and baby formula, not LPs.
I followed his career, though. Everyone from the East Bluff knew that the meeting in the grocery store with “my old lover” in “Same Old Lange Syne,” was in Kroger Plaza on Wisconsin Avenue. Maybe, maybe not, but we knew. There was no question that “Leader of the Band,” was about his dad, a loving tribute to the longtime band teacher at Pekin High School.
Thanks, Danny, for helping us through life with your music, which lives on. I wish you were still with us. Sadly, I guess it wasn’t part of the plan.
“I may miss the harvest, but I won’t miss the feast. And it looks like you’re going to have to see me again. . . . Illinois . . . Oh, Illinois. Illinois . . . I’m your boy.” “Illinois,” Dan Fogelberg