2/7/18: Dan Fogelberg “Leader of the Band”

This one might take a while to explain, but stick with me. The music in my head today is by Dan Fogelberg, a great American singer-songwriter who passed away just a decade ago at the age of 56. Fogelberg had some really noteworthy songs back in the early ‘80s. His music always featured well thought out, sensitive and meaningful lyrics. His first big hit, “Part of the Plan,” certainly exhibited his lyrical prowess – and I remember others from playing them on the radio. Songs like “Longer” and “Hard to Say,” and definitely “Run for The Roses.” Plus, every holiday season we all hear his classic tune about heartache and loneliness on New Year’s Eve: “Same Old Lang Syne.”

The one that stuck with me the most, though, is “Leader of the Band.” It was a tribute song that Dan wrote after his Dad, Lawrence, passed away. Lawrence Fogelberg was the band leader at Bradley University, and for other musical outfits, as Dan was growing up. It’s easy to figure out that he was always surrounded by music, and even though Dan wasn’t always able to easily communicate with his father they always had a strong appreciation for music in common.

For me, though, “Leader of the Band” has its own connotations. Three years ago, Carolina’s legendary basketball coach Dean Smith passed away. We didn’t find out the next day, but today is the anniversary of the date that he left us. It’s difficult to explain what that loss meant to every UNC fan out there, and “Leader of the Band” was the song I chose to try and express some of that. Dean Smith’s impact wasn’t limited to college basketball, and his loss was felt across the state.

Dean Smith was more than a coach, he was the head of the “Carolina family.” He was a mentor and father figure to everyone that came through his program, and to anyone who had even the slightest involvement with it. We all had such respect for him, not just drawn from his success on the court and the sidelines, but for who he was as a man.

Dean Smith was active in social causes, and did what he could in the fight for Civil Rights. He contributed to the causes he believed in meaningfully, and was what Art Chansky would call “a real game-changer” behind the scenes, as well. Just ask Charlie Scott, or Phil Ford. Dean Smith may have sometimes infuriated the coaches, players and fans of other schools, but I think that deep down they all had respect for him. They at least had to acknowledge his genius! Around Chapel Hill, we remember Coach Smith not so much for his astounding number of victories – though we don’t hesitate to bring it up – but more for his contributions as a wonderful human being. He was flawed, like the rest of us, but he made a difference in a variety of ways. He cared about other people, and never forgot a name. He was an inspiration, and a truly nice guy. He was Dean Smith.

On the morning I found out he had died, I was searching my mind for just the perfect song to play… and that song turned out to be “Leader Of The Band” by Dan Fogelberg. So today, on the third anniversary of that emotional remembrance, that song is “The Music In My Head.”