Dan Fogelberg’s Most Profound Song About Death

Peoria Riverfront Park Dan Fogelberg Memorial Site

“To every man the mystery
Sings a different song
He fills his page of history
Dreams his dreams and is gone.”

Yesterday I mused on the occasion of my friend mother’s death. I concluded the post by rejecting metaphysics and appealing to the commonplace in our search for meaning,

 … we must always come back to the commonplace for meaning, to what surrounds us, to what we I call the ordinary extraordinary. No theory or abstract truths mitigate existential realities, only our complete engagement in our lives can temporarily do that. …

Still even the most rational have their mystical moments. Below is a music video of the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard about death, one that appeals to me in my occasional mystical moments. The words, music, and vocals are by the American musician Dan Fogelberg (1951 – 2007), who is best-known for his hit songs such as: “Longer,” “The Leader of the Band,” and “Same Old Lang Syne.” The stories of each of these songs is itself fascinating, just follow the links.)

The song about death is titled “River of Souls” and is from an album of the same name. Below you’ll find its sublime lyrics.

   River of Souls (Original Recording Remastered)

I take my place along the shore
And I wait for the tide
It seems I’ve passed this way before
In an earlier time
I hear a voice like mystery
Blowing warm through the night
The silent moon embraces me
And I’m drawn to her light

I follow footprints in the sand
To a circle of stone
Find a fire burning bright
Though I came here alone
And in the play of shadows cast
I can dimly discern
The shapes of all who’ve gone before
Calling me to return

There are no names
That fit these faces
There are no lines that can define
These ancient spaces
The spirits dance across the ages
And melt into a river of souls

Lo que es de mio ~~ what is mine ~~
Lo que es de dios ~~ what is god’s ~~
Lo que es del rio ~~ what is the river’s ~~
Melt into a river of souls

I take my place along the shore
And I wait for the tide
It seems I’ve passed this way before
In an earlier time
To every man the mystery
Sings a different song
He fills his page of history
Dreams his dreams and is gone

There are no names
That fit these faces
There are no lines that can define
These ancient spaces
The spirits dance across the ages
And melt into a river of souls

Lo que es de mio ~~ what is mine ~~
Lo que es de dios ~~ what is god’s ~~
Lo que es del rio ~~ what is the river’s ~~
Melt into a river of souls

(There are links to his other music below.)

I highly recommend the music of this wonderful singer, songwriter, and artist.


Very Best of Dan Fogelberg


Dan Fogelberg: Greatest Hits


Phoenix


Box Set Series

Thank you Dan for your artistic contributions. I hope you have melted into a river of souls.

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8 thoughts on “Dan Fogelberg’s Most Profound Song About Death

  1. I was a huge fan of Dan Fogelberg all my life starting back with his Captured Angel album. To me his music and lyrics took you into a world of wonder and imagination like being somewhere few ever get to go. During my high school years in the late 70’s I pushed real hard for Part Of The Plan to be the class of 1978 song. It never happened. I heard that song hundreds of times but when Dan passed away I heard it for the first time. Dan was an atheist and that blew my mind. That what he said in the song and I couldn’t believe it so I looked it up. There was an Eden and there sure is a Heavenly Gate.
    Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

  2. Bill – Really appreciate your comments. A bit unsure of your final sentence though. Here are the lyrics:

    There is no Eden or
    Heavenly gates
    That you’re gonna make it to one day
    But all of the answers you seek
    Can be found
    In the dreams that you dream on the way

  3. I think Bill is saying that Bill himself is a believer and was blown away that Dan wasn’t and contradicted Dan’s lyric with his own belief

  4. I find it extremely hard to believe that Dan was actually an atheist. Listening to his lyrics and music for the past 45 years, it seems to me that he had a great deal of faith, although he might not have practiced any organized religion.

  5. I think we are inclined to identify most closely with those who share our own beliefs, but it’s certainly not incomprehensible to believe that anyone with a different concept of a personal God would be incapable of appreciating and creating beauty.

  6. I am delighted to find this. Dan Fogelberg was the first concert my future husband and I went to in Jackson, MS. It was being simulcast on our local FM oriented radio station. My future hub set it up for his parents to listen to it. Great! Until Dan sat down to play The River and said he hoped he didn’t fuck it up. David and I looked at each other and he said, oh no. Sure enough, they were waiting up for him to complain about that word!!! But we saw Dan many more times, I saw him in the gym at my university. Very cool. Home Free and Souvenirs, we played them so much. My children’s safe word was “Dan Fogelberg” and I would tell them to let me nap unless it was Jesus or Dan Fogelberg. But my husband, too, was diagnosed with terminal rectal cancer in May of 2004 and died two weeks before Dan died. I cannot listen to Home Free at all any more, and only a couple of songs off of Souvenirs. No Leader of the Band, nor the Same Aulde Lang Syne. Cannot listen to his Christmas album. My favorite song ever is Sutter’s Mill and most everything off of the High Country Snows album. Cancer really sucks. But I am happy to have found you. This last December was the fourteenth anniversary of my husband’s and Dan’s deaths. It hit me so hard, I sobbed for weeks, screamed and cussed out a friend. Argued with my son. Could not get out of bed. Did not open mail. And did absolutely nothing for the holidays. My five year old smarter than me granddaughter kept asking if I was okay. That is how bad it hit me. I raged against cancer taking good people while sparing people who just really do not belong on the planet. That’s it. Thanks.

  7. Hi Trisha:

    Thank you very much heartfelt comments. I read them with great interest. So sorry for your loss. And I too think death is a great tragedy, a cruel trick, as I argue in my post “Death Should Be Optional.” all the best, John

  8. I started Listening too Dan Fogelberg in the 70’s in CA. My Friend Dan Russo turned Me on Too Him! And He has been the Only Artist that could Reach into My Soul ! A very Special Person ! Who thank God I got too see in Ct. And My Home on Cape Cod! God Bless You Dan and Hope Too Meet You “On the Other Side” !

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