There are many Dan Fogelberg songs that still have the ability to raise the emotions sequestered deep in my soul. Some day I’ll write about “Dancing Shoes,” but in this week that began with Father’s Day I’m thinking of “Leader of the Band.”
The song is a tribute to his father, a “quiet man of music,” who inspired Fogelberg to take up the life he chose and “come to know so well.” Hearing this song never fails to remind me of my own father. While neither he nor I have a stitch of musical talent, the song represents appreciation for all my father did to instill the values of integrity and work that have guided me through my life, even when I didn’t realize it.
The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
Now, as he nears his 87th birthday, I have a better understanding of how much my father influenced me.
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul
And how much I’ve tried to emulate his guidance, his example, his leadership.
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
My father led one life and I another. He wore blue collars throughout his working career; I switched to white collar at some point largely forgotten to me now. But he remained my inspiration, my moral guide. The instrumental prelude to “Leader of the Band” is like a spigot being turned – my eyes begin to water before Fogelberg belts out the first words in his melodic high tenor voice. By the time of the John Philip Sousa interlude midway through the song I’ve lost it. My voice cracks as I try to sing along to the words I know so well.
I’m just the living legacy
To the leader of the band
Tears flow as I finish listening to the song one more time. I hope I’ve lived up to the gift I was given by my father. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.