This V-C-V was first published September 13, 2005 on pcmunoz.com
“Leader of the Band” - Dan Fogelberg
Written by Dan Fogelberg
From The Innocent Age (Sony, 1981)
I can tell you from experience that trying to write songs about family relationships can be tricky business. Even the finest of songwriters have to be careful not to fall prey to crass histrionics, sappy sentimentality, or plain ol’ cliché when dealing with the raw, complex emotions which characterize family dynamics. I personally find “father” songs by male songwriters and “mother” songs by female songwriters the most interesting, in general. Occasionally a song will surprise me, like Tupac’s “Dear Mama”, which at first seems like it might be a schmaltzy “mother-worshipping” song, but actually turns out to be a thoughtful reflection on the young Shakur’s youthful indiscretion, and his mother’s personal struggles (which he couldn’t understand as a child). I suppose I’m partial to songs with a little subtlety, like Bread’s “Everything I Own”, which seems to be about a lover, but of which writer David Gates has repeatedly said is about his father.
I didn’t understand “Leader of the Band” when it came out. I figured it was about Fogelberg’s school band teacher and I simply wasn’t attached enough to any of my school band teachers to relate. Besides, it was 1981, I was 14 years old, and I was not paying much attention to what was crackin’ on soft-rock radio (though now I find myself jonesing for some of that music). Nevertheless, the line
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man…
was stuck in my head for years. I always had the feeling that I should investigate the song more, but didn’t bother to do so until the mid-‘90s. I picked up Fogelberg’s Greatest Hits on vinyl, dropped the needle on “Leader of the Band”, and cranked it.